The first network of HIV-positive seafarers has been launched in the Philippines, with technical and financial support from the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and its union AMOSUP.
Positibong Marino Philippines has been formally registered as a self-help and support group for HIV-positive seafarers. It will work with the ITF, its unions and the Joint Manning Group (JMG) in the Philippines to defend the rights of HIV-positive seafarers, who find it difficult to get employment because of their health status. AMOSUP has welcomed the network by giving it office space in the union’s Manila office.
Jebsen Gamido, chairperson of the new network, said: 'I have been HIV positive for seven years, having got the virus before sailing for the first time as deck cadet. Over the years, I have faced so many challenges to getting employment on board ship. That’s why I am committed to build this network of HIV positive seafarers in the Philippines to provide mental and legal support to all HIV-positive seafarers, irrespective of their nationality.
'We will challenge the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS and fight for our rights, especially in the Philippines, where employment discrimination based on HIV status is prohibited by law.
'The ITF has been with us from the beginning and we hope they will be with us while we grow to be a strong network to fight injustice and harassment and defend our rights.'
ITF maritime co-ordinator Jacqueline Smith welcomed the network and praised Jebsen Gamido for his dedication and hard work. She added that the ITF was committed to keeping seafarers healthy and happy and to remove the stigma and discrimination that workers with HIV/AIDS continue to face, and would continue to support Positibomg Marino Philippines with pride. She said she also hoped other union and health activists would be inspired by its example.
Follow the network on Facebook using @Positibong.MarinoPhil.
Download the ITF’s wellbeing app for seafarers, which contains a wealth of information about HIV/AIDS.