Are SA's employers immune to HIV/AIDS? - 943 victims a day don't think so

11 October 2006 PeopleManagement

Business owners and Senior managers within some of South Africa's leading companies are taking a `head in sand' approach to HIV and AIDS management in the workplace. So says Diane Ritson of PeopleManagement, an HIV and Aids workplace program company consulting to large enterprises in South Africa.

The same companies that rely on strategists and spin-doctors, as a fundamental pillar of decision-making, may also be guilty of overlooking the elementary function of caring for the well being of their staff. Few leaders recognize the fact that if their employees know and own their HIV status, they take over the responsibility to manage this status and this is where the employment of a professional HIV and AIDS counselling service comes into play.

All this in light of the shocking statistics that 19% of employees in this country between the ages of 19 and 64 are infected with HIV, if you apply that figure, that means on average 2 out of 10 employees in every small business are affected.

Current chilling statistics show that 943 people a day are dying of AIDS related diseases in South Africa and 1443 new HIV infections daily.

It is obvious that early detection is key to managing the disease. "People need to know their HIV status first, and know it early enough to receive the correct medication to enable them to have a good quality of life, and continue to support their families and make a meaningful contribution to the economy" says Ritson.

Sadly, many HIV infected people are only coming forward for treatment when their CD4 count is at 40, in other words, close to death. If treatment is started when the CD4 count is at 200, the chances of survival for longer are greatly increased. "We need to stop this fear of testing, we need to embed the concept that early detection equals a longer life and this is where education is the key" Ritson says.

As small and medium companies are hardest hit by this epidemic, companies are being encouraged to have a more hands-on approach to HIV/AIDS management in the workplace and to this end, PeopleManagement have introduced an essential tool. Known as the `Toolkit', it's a training program based on the successful "Know your status" campaign that Ritson launched in 1999 within the corporate sector. That campaign to date has been instrumental in the training of over 50,000 employees and 31,000 voluntarily testing. The `know your status campaign in a box' is a cost effective, self-help program for companies who wish to increase productivity by assisting not only the 20% of infected employees in their midst, but to also educate those around them. This kit also has take-home elements that have been designed for the breadwinner to go and empower his/her family and community.

Endorsed by the Afrikaanse Handels Institute, the `toolkit' has already been distributed to 1,300 Caltex forecourts around South Africa.

Whilst revealing your status is optional, the importance of doing so should not be underestimated. As an example, employees aware of the status of their fellow colleagues are not only more empathetic towards them, but, more importantly, will be sensitive to their needs. Specifically with regard to the passing of common, everyday germs, which could infect an HIV/AIDS positive colleague making them very sick or worse.

Furthermore, Ritson has the following message: The cure for ignorance and prejudice around HIV is to know your status "At the moment", the HIV prevention focus is on ABC: Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condomise, I believe we need to change the Aids alphabet to ATBC, Abstinence, Test, Be Faithful and Condomise". We are only going to manage this risk once EVERY one knows and is empowered to manage this HIV status.


Quick Polls


How confident are you that insurers treat policyholders fairly, according to the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) principles?


Very confident, insurers prioritise fair treatment
Somewhat confident, but improvements are needed
Not confident, there are significant issues with fair treatment
fanews magazine
FAnews June 2024 Get the latest issue of FAnews

This month's headlines

Understanding prescription in claims for professional negligence
Climate change… the single biggest risk facing insurers
Insuring the unpredictable: 2024 global election risks
Financial advice crucial as clients’ Life policy premiums rise sharply
Guiding clients through the Two-Pot Retirement System
There is diversification, and true diversification – choose wisely
Decoding the shift in investment patterns
Subscribe now