UN Plus focuses 4 issues that are of concern to UN staff living with HIV and conducts advocacy through research and networking. For more details, please download our Position Paper.
- Stigma and Discrimination
- Travel and Mobility
- Health Insurance
In the workplace any expression of HIV-related stigma and discrimination can make HIV-positive employees uncomfortable at a minimum or scared and traumatized at worst. Examples of discrimination in the workplace include mandatory testing prior to signing an employment contract; denial of promotion or termination of employment on the basis on HIV status; hurtful, disparaging or inappropriate remarks; and disregard for confidentiality and privacy.
UN Plus members consider HIV-related stigma and discrimination to be unacceptable, regardless of where it occurs. UN Plus urges the United Nations to address and respond to stigma and discrimination that takes place within the system as a matter of urgency. In addition, United Nations agencies are encouraged to actively support and advocate with their partners for measures that combat stigma and discrimination in broader social contexts.
There are many countries around the world that restrict the entry, residence and stay of foreigners who are HIV positive. These countries perpetuate stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV by singling out HIV as a “dangerous disease”. This can adversely affect many aspects of life, from employment prospects and economic well-being to personal relationships and access to health care.
Many United Nations employees are required to travel in the course of their work; many may seek work and residence in countries other than their homeland, for short or long periods of time. The United Nations should encourage the removal of HIV-related work and travel restrictions in all countries, regardless of whether the laws are enforced in regard to United Nations employees.
Confidentiality is an important issue for HIV-positive United Nations employees because they live and work in a diverse range of setting and contexts. Some feel reasonably protected from confidentiality violations and their possible consequences, while others worry that confidentiality breaches could ruin their careers, destroy friendships and families, or cause them to be discriminated against socially, legally and economically. Such concerns are particularly worrying in workplaces and communities where HIV-related stigma remains strong and there are few, if any, ways to seek redress from privacy violations.
Policies at individual agencies and organizations should comply with the United Nations system-wide personnel policy that ensures confidentiality of HIV status. Presently, agencies interpret the broader policy in different ways and consequently some have more comprehensive confidentiality policies than others. This inconsistency across the United Nations means that not all employees receive the same level of protection. UN Plus urges all United Nations agencies to adopt a standardized confidentiality policy that would ensure the highest level of confidentiality protections possible.
United Nations staff members are covered by nearly 20 different insurance schemes. I general, most existing plans help staff obtain access to a level of health care that they might otherwise be unable to afford – including antiretroviral treatment and other health costs related to HIV. However, UN Plus members claim that many of the plans are far from satisfactory and several have described their existing health insurance plans as confusing, cumbersome and inconsistent.
Some of the problems could be addressed fairly easy – such as simplifying and improving explanatory information so that staff can better understand their entitlements. More broadly, UN Plus members would like health insurance benefits to be standardized across the United Nations system, similar to the system-wide pension scheme. This would guarantee that worker in every agency would have access to the highest level of coverage. Ideally, coverage across the system would guarantee comprehensive coverage to 1) a wider range of eligible family members, dependents, and partners; and 2) United Nations employees who are not currently eligible, such as certain contract and part-time workers in many agencies.