Much still needs to be done in the areas of HIV/AIDS and the general wellbeing of seafarers, a survey by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has found.
Results were garnered from questioning 34 maritime trade unions and 608 of their members of both sexes.
The ITF described the finding “surprising”, pointing to the myths about HIV/AIDS transmission that persist among those surveyed, despite falling global infection rates supported by decades of information programmes.
In one (unnamed) country that is a significant source of maritime labour only 17% of respondents believe condoms prevent HIV transmission while 46% are convinced it is spread by food and drink.
General wellbeing responses showed worries about weight, depression and alcohol use with, on average, half concerned about their weight and 60% experiencing back or joint pain at work. One country reported a depression level of 75%.
The main participating countries were India, Madagascar, Philippines, and Ukraine.
The ITF performs similar surveys for civil aviation and ports, but this was the first to include questions on wellbeing and health to form an overall picture of seafarers’ needs and concerns. Part of its activity aims to ‘normalise’ HIV/AIDS within the theme of general health to lessen its stigma and levels of fear among seafarers.
Jacqueline Smith, ITF maritime co-ordinator explained, “We believe this is the most exhaustive investigation into this subject and offer its findings to everyone concerned with seafarers’ welfare.”
Having identified problems, the ITF aims to address these via a pioneering programme in partnership with the ITF seafarers section, which sponsored the survey.
A key recommendation is a bespoke seafarers’ education programme from the ITF. Targets will include maritime academies and other organisations such as the ILO, which also has an HIV/AIDS seafarers programme.