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SUB CATEGORIES General  |  HIV |  Medical Schemes | 

HIV in the workplace - Employers can play a strong role in overcoming the concern

29 November 2011 Andre Jacobs of Aon Hewitt South Africa
Andre Jacobs

Andre Jacobs

World Aids Day on 1 December is a timely reminder for businesses in South Africa – which have been hugely affected by the disease with approximately 5.38 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS – to continue with the development of HIV programmes within the workplace.

According to Andre Jacobs of Aon Hewitt South Africa, no business is immune against AIDS with the implications of the disease felt both at the micro and macro level. “Although HIV / AIDS-related programmes have evolved rapidly in recent years, many private-sector, government and non-governmental organisations still do not have any viable workplace programmes in place.”

Jacobs says South Africa still has a long way to go when it comes to managing HIV in the workplace, adding that it is vital for employers to play an active role in the process by both educating staff and helping those affected to manage the virus.

In terms of operations, Jacobs says that the virus impacts businesses in three main areas, namely productivity, cost and business sustainability. “Businesses in South Africa are already subjected to the pressures of increasingly competitive national and global markets and are challenged with demands from investors and consumers for increased productivity, efficiency, quality and innovation.

“In addition, pressures are mounting for businesses to be more responsible and accountable to their wider stakeholders – workforces, suppliers, communities, governments and the general public. HIV is an additional challenge to overcome.”

He says that businesses are in a unique position to promote efforts in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. “If businesses are seen to recognise the importance of responding to the disease, this has tremendous advocacy potential within communities, the general public, other businesses and government.”

He says the following steps will assist businesses in appropriately responding to HIV/AIDS:

1. Ensure organizational leadership sponsorship through demonstrating the case for addressing HIV/AIDS. This should clearly demonstrate the business costs and benefits and human resource implications of HIV/AIDS initiatives.

2. Ensure that the initiatives chosen match the company’s core business skills and technical expertise as well as the needs of the target audience.

3. Ensure that a multi-pronged programme is implemented to ensure real effectiveness. The programme should go beyond the workplace and address issues within the local community, where the business operates and where labour is sourced.

4. Ensure that a consultative approach with all stakeholders, particularly with the involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS, are undertaken to ensure that initiatives are appropriately directed and to allow for prioritisation.

5. Ensure that the initiatives are aligned to work done by NGOs, governmental and intergovernmental organisations. This will ensure that the business program can benefit from the necessary expertise and knowledge of HIV/AIDS issues.

6. Ensure that peer educators/leaders from the target groups are used in the dissemination of education and prevention information.

7. Ensure that the initiative utilises low cost and creative methods to ensure sustainability.

8. Ensure that duplication between initiatives are avoided between medical schemes, employee assistance and employee wellness programmes.

9. Ensure that the initiatives are continually monitored, and continually review the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS initiatives, with a willingness to adapt the programmes to maximize efficiency.

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