HIV and TB often occur in the same individuals, each exacerbating the other’s effects. To be effective, workplace programmes must incorporate elements addressing both TB and HIV. This was concluded at the Leadership in HIV& Aids workshop which was part of the BHP Billiton Skills Development summit.
Dr Gwendoline Ramokgopa, the Deputy Minister of Health gave an update on the epidemics in South Africa and rationale for corporate action for workplace and community.
The deputy minister highlighted the positive impacts of the voluntary counselling and testing program that has seen 14 million South African being tested in the past year and a reduction in mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. 1,4million South African have also been put on ARVs and this has necessitated a need for SA to manufacture its own drugs and this will grow the drugs industry and skills set.
Integrated TB and HIV efforts centre on the basic principles of joint program and policy development, education and awareness-raising, diagnosis and screening and clinical management. According to James Steele, Head of Health: South African Region Anglogold Ashanti, “workplaces need a simple effective framework for both TB & HIV”. The company’s HIV/AIDS program was created to address an estimated 30% prevalence of HIV/AIDS among employees at the South African operations (figure as of 2007). The key objectives of the group’s HIV/AIDS program are to minimize the risk of HIV/AIDS on the company and its employees by reducing and ultimately eliminating new infections, efficiently managing those infected and supporting those with advanced AIDS. The program focuses on prevention, treatment and support.
Penny Mkalipe, Chief Medical Officer, ESKOM added that what was needed to ensure a successful strategy was a balance between prevention and treatment. “This balance will be achieved by providing equal amounts of attention to both areas – one of Eskom’s main tactics in their stand against HIV/AIDS”, she said. In 1988 Eskom initiated its first HIV/AIDS policy focussing on education, surveillance and counselling. Today the programme consists of various initiatives. These include Prevention & Awareness, Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT), Care and Support as well as Partnerships in Action. Immune Modulating Therapy as well as anti-retroviral therapies are being case-managed while day-to-day monitoring ensues on a continuous basis.
Standard Bank understands the importance of investing in the vitality of its workforce. In the vanguard of private sector-led efforts to address high HIV levels among workers and their families, Standard Bank has had in place a progressive HIV workplace program since 2002.
Wellness manager at standard Bank Beauty Zondi explained that the bank’s HIV workplace program is a fourfold framework with the following components: External psychosocial support structure, known as Independent Counselling and Advisory Services (ICAS);
- Medical aid program (BANKMED) for the provision of treatment, support and care;
- Internal department, Corporate Health, with the mandate of managing occupational health and wellness; and
- A supportive role played by HR though alignment of HIV issues with policies and programs.
The program’s four components are anchored by a team of around 750 Wellness Champions across its operations in Africa. Wellness Champions are Standard Bank employees who volunteer as peer educators. The Wellness Champion cadre is trained for the purpose of disseminating wellness, health, and HIV-related information across multiple channels. In conjunction with its policies.
A workforce that is highly infected with HIV can lead to many illness-related absences and a loss of skilled workers. In addition to the burden on workers and their families, AIDS-related morbidity and mortality can result in reduced company profits and difficulty in delivering products and services. Businesses play a key role both in HIV prevention efforts and in mitigating the effects of the AIDS epidemic on their employees.
Said Johnny Dladla, VP Communications and External Relations at BHP Billiton SA, “In fulfilling our responsibility to care for our employees, we have developed support and treatment programs to holistically help us manage HIV/AIDS in the work place. In line with our Charter, we are also assisting the broader community to cope with the effects of the epidemic by participating in a range of projects with government, community organisations, NGOs and industry groups.”
In recognising the severity of this devastating health issue, our sites have put into place various strategies to limit the impact of HIV/AIDS on our employees and our operations. These include supporting educational and awareness programs; promoting healthy lifestyles; and, in collaboration with trade unions, arranging anonymous testing and counseling.”
For the Skills Development Summit
Dylan James, Director, Skills Development Summit
Tel +27 21 681 7000
Mobile +27 84 244 6389
For BHP Billiton SA
For BHP Billiton South Africa
Johnny Dladla, Spokesperson, BHP Billiton SA
Tel +27 11 376 2375
Mobile +27 82 729 7545