UN personnel policy

In 1991,  the UN adopted a forward-looking,  comprehensive policy in respect of UN system staff and HIV.

The UN Personnel Policy on HIV says that the UN will make sure that all staff and their families know about HIV so that they can protect themselves and others,  and so that they can work with HIV-positive colleagues without fear of becoming infected.  The UN will make sure that staff have access to good quality training and condoms to avoid infection.

The policy says that the UN will provide support and counselling services to any of its staff or their families upon request.  It also says that a person’s HIV status is his/her own affair and must be treated by the UN and all its offices as confidential at all times.

You may view the recent bulletin from the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan,   "Policy on HIV in the workplace" as an Adobe PDF file.    [Download the free Acrobat reader]

The policy guarantees that no one will be discriminated against because of HIV.  No one will be required to have an HIV test to gain employment,  remain employed,  or have his/her contract renewed.  People who are ill because of HIV infection will have the same rights and benefits as people who are ill through any other cause.  This applies to all staff,  from the Secretary-General to short-term,  locally employed staff.

In addition to this system-wide policy,  several UN agencies and programmes have developed their own policies,  but these must be in compliance with the wider system policy.  Ask your human resource/personnel/operations officer if your agency or programme has its own policy!

A.  Information,  education and other preventive health measures
  • UN Staff and their families should be provided with sufficient,  updated information to enable them to protect themselves from HIV infection and to cope with the presence of AIDS. 

To this end,  all UN bodies are encouraged to develop and implement an active staff education strategy for HIV using the booklet "Living in a World with HIV" for UN personnel and their families produced by UNAIDS and identifying in the field local sources experienced in HIV counselling,  to provide confidential follow-up.  The staff of the UN Medical Service should be fully involved in such staff education programmes.  They should receive any additional professional education that may be required; and all pertinent information material on HIV,  supplied and updated by UNAIDS,  should be available through them at all duty stations. 

  • All UN staff members and their families should be made aware of where safe blood may be obtained. 

To accomplish this task,  the WHO Blood Safety Unit,  in cooperation with the UN Medical Service,  should establish and regularly update a list of reliable and operational blood transfusion centres for circulation to UN headquarters,  regional offices and duty stations.  The UN Medical Service and local linked medical facilities should also make efforts to ensure that blood transfusions are performed only when absolutely necessary. 

  • UN Resident Coordinators must exercise their responsibility to adopt measures to reduce the frequency of motor vehicle accidents,  not only because of their attendant high mortality and morbidity,  but because they represent a particular risk for HIV infection in those localities lacking safe blood supplies. 

UN Resident Coordinators are,  therefore,  encouraged to consider the following measures for reinforcement or for general adoption if not already applied; and to circulate them to all personnel at the duty station together with instructions on the use of public transport:

  • the fitting of and compulsory use of seat belts in all UN vehicles;
  • proper training in off-road use of 4-wheel drives;
  • prohibition against the personal use of vehicles when an official driver is available;
  • compulsory use of helmets for all riders of motorbikes;
  • prohibition against substance abuse by vehicle drivers;
  • organization of first-aid training sessions; and
  • equipping UN vehicles with first-aid kits containing macro-molecular solutions (plasma expanders). 

The UN Medical Service should provide disposable syringes and needles to staff on duty travel areas where there is no guarantee of the proper sterilization of such materials.  They should be accompanied by a certificate in all UN official languages explaining the reasons why they are being carried.  Regional offices and other duty stations should stock disposable injection material for use by UN staff and their families.  This stock should be available at UN dispensaries,  where such exist,  or at the WHO duty station in the country.

All UN staff members and their families should have access to condoms. Condoms should be available through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and/or WHO at those duty stations where there is not a reliable and consistent supply of high quality condoms from the private sector.  Access should be free,  simple and discreet. 

The policy guarantees that no one will be discriminated against because of HIV.

B.  Voluntary testing,  counselling and testing

Voluntary counselling and testing with pre- and post-counselling should be made available to all UN staff members and their families. Adequate facilities for voluntary and confirmatory testing and counselling should be made available locally to UN staff members and their families,  with UN bodies acting in close collaboration with the UN Medical Service and WHO. 

C.  Terms of appointment and service

Pre-recruitment and Employment Prospects

  • The only medical criterion for recruitment is fitness to work. 
  • HIV infection does not,  in itself,  constitute a lack of fitness to work. 
  • There will be no HIV screening of candidates for recruitment. 
  • AIDS will be treated as any other medical condition in considering medical classification. 
  • HIV testing with the specific and informed consent of the candidate may be required if AIDS is clinically suspected. 
  • Nothing in the pre-employment examination should be considered as obliging any candidate to declare his or her HIV status. 
  • For any assignment in a country which requires HIV testing for residence,  this requirement must appear in the vacancy notice. 

Continuity of Employment
  • HIV infection or AIDS should not be considered as a basis for termination of employment. 
  • If fitness to work is impaired by HIV-related illness,  reasonable alternative working arrangements should be made. 
  • UN staff members with AIDS should enjoy health and social protection in the same manner as other UN employees suffering from serious illness. 
  • HIV screening,  whether direct (HIV testing),  indirect (assessment of risk behaviours) or asking questions about tests already taken,  should not be required. 
  • Confidentiality regarding all medical information,  including HIV status,  must be maintained. 
  • There should be no obligation on the part of the employee to inform the employer regarding his or her HIV status. 
  • Persons in the workplace affected by,  or perceived to be affected by HIV,  must be protected from stigmatization and discrimination by co-workers, unions, employers or clients.
  • HIV-infected employees and those with AIDS should not be discriminated against, including access to and receipt of benefits from statutory social security programmes and occupationally-related schemes. 

The administrative,  personnel and financial implications of these principles under terms of appointment and service should be monitored and periodically reviewed. 

D.  Health insurance benefits programmes
  • Health insurance coverage should be available for all UN employees regardless of HIV status. There should be no pre- or post-employment testing for HIV infection. 
  • Health insurance premiums for UN employees should not be affected by HIV status. No testing for HIV infection should be permitted with respect to any health insurance scheme.