Duration 3min 45sec

KB: The survey, which was conducted during October and November 2003 covered sectors in the manufacturing, retail, wholesale, motor trade and building and construction industries. The purpose of the research was to gauge the level at which business is involved in the fight against HIV and AIDS. One of the questions the survey asked respondents was: Does your company have an HIV/AIDS policy in place ‘€“ the foundation of any response to the fight against the epidemic? Only 26 % of the 1006 companies targeted answered in the affirmative. Dr Leighton McDonald is a member of the Board of Governors of SABCOHA.

Dr LEIGHTON McDONALD: It is a low figure and I think it represents, I suppose, the response that business has mounted to the epidemic. There are a number of reasons for it. One of them is complacency. Another is denial. The other is, also, companies are faced with a problem they think is too big to handle and they need assistance with it, sspecially, smaller companies’€¦ They need to have it broken down into bite-size chunks for them. What SABCOHA has done is develop a tool-kit for small business, which gives things like generic policies, information pamphlets and gives an idea of what (the) programme should look like. SABCOHA will be launching that in the next six to eight weeks.

KB: Another finding of the study was that only 41 % of the companies have implemented an awareness programme; 18 % have a voluntary counselling and testing service; and

13 % offer care, support and treatment, which excludes anti-retrovirals. Only 6 % of companies surveyed offer those as an option. However, Gaby Magomola, chairperson of SABCOHA, says given government’€™s intention to roll out a national treatment programme for HIV and AIDS the situation might change.

GABY MAGOMOLA: You are going, in my view ‘€“ just with the discussions we’€™ve had with some of the members of SABCOHA – to see more and more of our own members and those that are potential members rolling out antiretroviral drugs to their employees. But I think this programme will escalate to the point that you’€™ll see benefits accruing also to relatives of those employees in certain companies.

KB: The manufacturing sector seems to be the hardest hit by the epidemic in terms of the severe impact on profits, productivity and absenteeism. More than 40 % of manufacturers reported that HIV/AIDS has already reduced profits. A further 39 % indicated that the epidemic has reduced labour productivity or increased absenteeism. In contrast, only a quarter of the retail sector reported profit loss and less than 20 % indicated that HIV/AIDS has had a negative impact on productivity or absenteeism. Dr Leighton McDonald said a number of factors set the two industries apart.

McDONALD: Manufacturing is very labour intensive; it’€™s a very big employer; and employs semi-skilled and unskilled employees, which is where the effects of the epidemic are being quite significantly felt. Retail is a smaller sector; employs different people. But also, another factor as to why those came across quite differently might be perceptions. Manufacturing actually has experience of the effects of the epidemic, whereas retail might have not felt it yet.            

KB: Companies in the motoring, construction and building and wholesale industries fall between the two extremes. According to the survey companies located in KwaZulu-Natal ‘€“ because of the big size of its epidemic, and Gauteng ‘€“ because of its bigger employment opportunities, appear to be the worst affected. So, what lessons can be learned from this survey?

McDONALD: We know that not enough is being done’€¦ But we know that research is being done. But clearly, companies still need to do a lot more. And they need to do it in a structured way to make sure that any money that is being spent or resources being spent actually have a positive outcome.

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To download a copy of the survey, click here