If You Want HIV Legislation, Ask Labour: How Unions and Employers Contributed to Adoption of the National AIDS Law in Paraguay

Article | 01 July 2010

Paraguay - July 2010


In 2003, a National Committee was formed to push for legal reforms on HIV and AIDS. As a result of this advocacy, a new AIDS law was adopted in 2009.

This achievement was due, in part, to the fact that the Committee gradually included important sectors of society that were not considered “relevant” to HIV and AIDS initially. One of these sectors was Labour. Ultimately Labour played a crucial role in the development and adoption of the new legislation.


The National Committee was initially composed of representatives from the Ministry of Health, health NGOs, and organizations of people living with HIV and AIDS. As consultations continued, the Committee expanded its membership. By 2007, it also included human rights networks, academic, religious and political leaders.

Also in 2007, the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a project with its partners on “Strengthening the World of Work’s Response to HIV and AIDS in Paraguay”. It brought together union leaders, employers, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and Labour in a dialogue on HIV and AIDS issues. This dialogue raised awareness of Labour’s essential role in the development of public policies.

In 2009, the Committee invited representatives of all sectors – including a highly motivated Labour - to jointly design an advocacy strategy, which was implemented successfully. This multi-sectoral approach tipped the scales of public support. The new HIV and AIDS law promulgated in December 2009 takes account of the world of work.

Lessons Learned

The Paraguay example demonstrates that purely health-focused initiatives can limit the scope of legislation and overlook crucial allies needed to pass essential legislation.

Next Steps

The ILO is working with the Ministry of Justice and Labour, unions and business associations to disseminate and effectively implement the new law.