“The gold mines have estimated what HIV/AIDS is going to cost them per ounce, and are working to reduce this cost through a range of actions,” says Whiteside by way of an example.
However, he warned that it was difficult for managers to quantify exact costs as “the impact is incremental, starting with the drop in productivity as the workforce gets sick or takes time off to care for sick relatives or attend funerals”.
“The best way to minimise exposure is for businesses to ensure that their staff is HIV negative,” says Whiteside.
While pre-employment HIV testing is unconstitutional, “staff could be made to pass HIV/AIDS awareness tests before being employed or promoted”, says Whiteside.
Spreading the HIV/AIDS message could also be extended to business associates says Whiteside. Botswana’s diamond mining company, Debswana, will not award a tender to any company that is not “AIDS compliant” (has no internal AIDS policy), he points out.
Government could support businesses’ efforts by passing legislation that will create “an enabling environment for businesses to become AIDS compliant” as they have with affirmative action.
“It could become mandatory for companies to have an AIDS policy. Tender boards could ensure that companies met a set of standards, including condom distribution and discouraging migrant labour, before being awarded government tenders.”
He adds that small businesses that had few options to change their operations needed the most help from the government.
However, warned Whiteside, government should not be the gatekeeper,controlling all HIV/AIDS initiatives as it is “the lots of little things” that are going to help to turn the epidemic around.