HIV/AIDS - What does the future hold in store?

By dessquire, 24 July, 2009

One of the greatest problems facing companies is HIV/AIDS and the effect it will have on morale, worker retention, productivity and profitability. Employers are faced with the task of addressing the spiraling cost and effect that the illness will have on business in general.

In addressing this, employers will need to consider specific issues that are in one way or another related to the effects of HIV/AIDS. These include, but are not limited to
• Performance management
• Managing incapacity due to illness
• Managing productivity
• Absenteeism due to ill health
• Compassionate leave
• Disability management
• Maintaining confidentiality and privacy
• Procedures for initiating inquiries
• Degrees of incapacity
• Disability grants as opposed to early retirement

This is not a time for a "Head in the sand" approach. While many employers are addressing the issues related to HIV/AIDS others are still ignoring the problem in the hope it will go away. This is not going to happen and calls for a pro-active approach.

"Understanding how aids will affect the supply and demand chain from employees to customers is central to strategic market planning" according to Veni Naidu at Cape Town's School of Economics. He goes on to say, "If AIDS is excluded from strategic market planning, there may be drastic consequences for organisations".

According to Carl Van Aardt, director of research at Unisa’s Bureau of Market research, the recent study challenges the widespread belief that HIV is a disease of the poor, the impoverished, the uneducated and the unemployed.

Recent statistics released, following a Markinor survey, indicate we could be facing a “third epidemic, due to the increase in HIV infection in the more affluent sectors of society”.

A great number of well-off and affluent South Africans are now living with HIV/AIDS. 6.2% of professional people were infected in 2002. The figure has now escalated to 8.3% or an increase of 34%.

The increase in the instances of HIV/AIDS infections of those in permanent employment has also increased by 36% to almost 20% of this group.

What this indicates is that a large percentage of those who are employed, who are capable of investing, and who are in a position to sustain the economy are now infected. This can only have a negative impact on companies and the country as a whole if not addressed.

From the time of infection, it can take as long as ten years to develop full-blown Aids, in the absence of treatment. During this time, a company may have many infected workers at various stages of infection. This can, will and possibly is even now costing companies a great deal in terms of productivity and other direct and indirect costs.

HIV/ AIDS, is having a visible impact on industry, yet less than half of our companies have started to analyse the risks. According to a previous “Aids in the workplace” survey many companies doubt the epidemic will have any significant effect on them.

The HIV/AIDS message is not having the desired effect and to compound the problem mixed messages are being put out by government. While a great number of people have received information and acquired knowledge of HIV/AIDS the question being asked is “how can we convert the knowledge into action”?

This is food for thought and possibly worth considering as a workplace based project.


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