Mali – Your monthly support is essential to ARCAD/SIDA


– MALI –
October 8th, 2012

MaliARCAD/SIDA was one of the first HIV/AIDS associations in Mali. It was created in 1994 to develop a global approach to managing the spread of HIV by improving access to care and treatment, and prioritizing research and communication. As a co-founder and member organization of Coalition PLUS, the association fights primarily for human rights and access to care and treatment for everyone. Their method is based in community action, and they focus on the inclusion of people infected with or affected by HIV in the development and execution of their programs and strategies.

A critical situation
Six months after a coup by a group of armed extremists “sowing terror,” according to Human Rights Watch, northern Mali is in the midst of a major crisis. Dr. Bintou Dembélé, Director of ARCAD/SIDA, is sounding the alarm about the dramatic health situation her country has been plunged into. In the Centre de soins, d’animation et de conseils (Cesac) in Bamako where the organization works to provide services to over 5000 infected people, funds are sorely lacking. In Bamako, the facility is open, but the patients are not coming. “Some people are scared to leave their homes. Others can’t go anywhere because of fuel shortages.” Their access to antiviral medication is also threatened. “We import antiviral medication from India, but if the fuel shortages continue, air ties will be cut. This is basic care, without which all our efforts will be for naught.”

In the northern region, held by rebels, the situation is even more serious. According to the news and information website Mali Actualités, 600 people with AIDS fled the Islamist rebels, and are now lost in the wilderness with no access to treatment. Political instability in the occupied zones has badly affected health services and caused a dispersal of medical staff, whose lives have been endangered by the theft and massive destruction by the rebels of the medication and equipment, which are critical for treating patients.

HIV and workplace discrimination


Interview with Camille Alix, in charge of the VIH info droits Service at COCQ-SIDA
October 15th, 2012

Do people living with HIV still face problems in the job market?
Based on the calls that I get, I can confirm that people living with HIV do still encounter a lot of discrimination and work-related problems, whether it’s at the hiring stage, in the course of workplace relations, or during termination.

What problems do people have getting hired?
At the hiring stage, any questions the employer asks with regards to a person’s health are usually discriminatory. And contrary to what many people still think, in Québec there is no job that requires a person to be HIV-negative. Even in a hospital setting. The rule states that it is legally acceptable only to ask questions pertaining to the abilities necessary to carry out a job. Outside of that context, any question related a person’s HIV status constitutes discrimination. Unfortunately, this rule is rarely respected, and I get a lot of calls from people who have been subjected to these types of questions, or who have been refused a job after revealing their HIV-positive status during an interview or on a medical questionnaire.

And in the course of workplace relations?
The problems encountered are usually related to group insurance and to situations of indirect discrimination.
-Group insurance: For some HIV-positive people, signing up for group insurance can be delicate. I often get calls from people wondering what they should do when the time comes to fill out an insurance form. People are commonly under the impression that they have an obligation to inform their employer about their state of health, since their medical insurance is tied to work. In fact, medical information is strictly confidential, and should stay between the insurer and the insured. Even so, the arrival of an HIV-positive person in a small company can cause everyone’s premiums to go up as a result of the high cost of that person’s care and medication. When premiums go up, it can result in a witch-hunt for the person who caused the hike, the result being anything from harassment, to pressure from the employer or employees to force the person out of the group insurance contract, to termination.
– Indirect discrimination: This form of discrimination occurs when a person is negatively affected by company policies as a result of their disability. Examples of this are restricted numbers of breaks or sick days, the pace of work, or equipment. It happens relatively often that these types of restrictive policies prevent the person living with HIV from accomplishing some or even all work-related tasks, and they are forced to leave that job – either of their own volition, or because they are dismissed. The employer actually has an obligation to take measures to adapt the job to accommodate their employee, but unfortunately they don’t always respect this obligation, to the detriment of HIV-positive people, many of whom are not aware of their rights.

What recourse is there when a person living with HIV is the victim of discrimination or is fired for discriminatory reasons?
Recourse does exist, and should be used. In all these situations, it’s possible to file a complaint with the Commission des droits de la Personne et de la Protection de la Jeunesse. In fact, HIV has been officially recognized as a disability by the Human Rights Tribunal, which means that discrimination is actionable. At the VIH Info Droits service, we support users who choose to go before the Commission: we help them write their complaint and we are by their side throughout the process, which can be long and painful.


Let’s talk


October 15th, 2012

The mission of the Bureau local d’intervention traitant du sida (BLITS), a member of the Fondation, is to demystify HIV/AIDS among the population of Centre-du-Québec, to help people in the region living with HIV get back to living active lives, and to carry out awareness activities about the realities of HIV/AIDS, how the disease is transmitted, and how it can be prevented.

Today, people living with HIV have a much longer lifespan, and want to be active members of society. Many of them lead active lives, but are constantly confronted with obstacles related to the disclosure of their HIV-positive status, to confidentiality, and to discrimination – especially in the workplace.

As a society, we have to be able to come to terms with the new reality of HIV. Each of us may one day know an HIV-positive person, whether it be a family member, colleague, friend, neighbor or simply an acquaintance. We know that awareness is the key to reducing prejudice and discrimination, making it easier for those living with HIV to reintegrate into the workforce, or to continue their employment. That’s why it’s essential for each of us to be aware of the reality of HIV, and what it means for an infected person.

Faced with these facts, last year we developed an awareness campaign aimed at offices and private residences for autonomous people. Informational material themed “Let’s talk” were distributed to several target groups: one brochure for employers and/or HR directors, one brochure for employees, and one brochure addressing middle-aged residents. There were also two posters for these target groups.

Simultaneously, we carried out other awareness-building activities all over the community. We found that showing the film “Hommage à la vie” worked particularly well to facilitate discussion around the reality of HIV and HIV-positive people. These meetings also allowed us to update the information participants had about HIV, allowing them to feel more comfortable interacting with HIV-positive people in the future. A big thank you goes out to Jacques, who generously agreed to share his story and experiences during these presentations.

Maryse Laroche,

Whithout your support, the goal would be out of reach


October 15th, 2012

Dear donor,

On July 26, the La Presse newspaper revealed that the Ministry of Health and Social Services had decided to cancel the World AIDS Day campaign for “financial reasons.”

This news was hard for the HIV/AIDS community to understand, particularly since it came at a time when advances in science could soon lead to the eradication of HIV/AIDS. But without political support, this goal will remain out of reach.

What’s more, the Director of Public Health made a clear statement in his report on sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (.0), L’épidémie silencieuse(2010): “Over the past ten years, the problem has grown (…) Talk and action are needed, especially since these infections are transmittable and avoidable.” In light of these statistical and social indicators, it seems both illogical and dangerous not to make a significant investment in the fight against STBBIs.

And this is not the first time the Ministry’s annual campaign has been jeopardized; it’s happened before, and each time the mobilization of the community has prevented its suppression, demanding that the Quebec government take responsibility for spreading public awareness.

These budgetary restrictions for “financial reasons” have repercussions on the whole community. And they also have a cost. We pay the cost in new HIV and STBBI infections, and in the loss of the potential societal contribution of HIV positive individuals as a result of the prejudice that will continue to thrive in the absence of awareness.

For organizations, the result of these decisions is invariably the same: they respond as best they can to the needs of a community the state has failed to serve. And without your support, even this goal would be out of reach.

That’s why this year, for the fourth consecutive year, the community movement is calling for the campaign budget to not only be reinstated, but to be made permanent. By doing this, the new government can show us that they are committed to be active partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS and STBBIs.

Thank you for your support in the fight against HIV/AIDS!

Lise Pineault,
Executive Director