African Employers Discussed Impact Of HIV/AIDS On Workplaces

Armen Hareyan's picture

Employers from across Africa on Mondayended a two-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, that aimed to address theimpact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and review strategies formitigating the situation, Kenya's DailyNation reports. The conference, themed "ReinforcingEmployers' Interventions on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace in Eastern andSouthern Africa," was sponsored by the InternationalLabour Organization. It drew participants from Botswana, Kenya,Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa,Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Jacqueline Mugo,executive director of the Federation of Kenya Employers, during aspeech at the conference said employers have developed a newevaluation method to gather accurate data about the effect ofHIV/AIDS on the workplace. The new method involves assessing thetotal impact of the disease on a business and factors in medicalcosts and loss of productivity (Mwiti, Daily Nation,12/10). According to Mugo, employers estimate that a Kenyan companyloses more than 3.6 million shillings -- or about $57,000 -- annuallyto HIV/AIDS expenditures, the EastAfrican Standard reports. "The figure we have givenis only the medical bill incurred by employers for eight"HIV-positive employees, Mugo said, adding, "Employers with manyinfected employees incur bigger losses." According to Mugo, thefederation's "monitoring and evaluation mechanisms indicate thatthe impact of the scourge to business is enormous, and the trendcontinues to have a negative impact on financial bottom line."She also said businesses experience losses in productivity fromabsenteeism, medical expenses, and loss of skilled manpower throughreplacement and training (Adero, East African Standard,12/11).


Mark Bor, permanent secretary in Kenya's Ministryof Labour and Human Resource Development, said that thegovernment is concerned about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the informalsector, the Nation reports. "Small profit marginsand too few workers at any one site are among the difficultiesencountered in this sector, which employs 6.8 million Kenyans,"he said. Bor proposed that HIV/AIDS advisory committees incorporate across section of industries to address the problem (DailyNation, 12/10). "It has been more difficult to implementHIV/AIDS programs in the informal sector for reasons such as too fewworkers at any one site, lack of appropriate venues for educationalsessions and small profit margins that discourage small-businessowners from releasing employees for educational sessions," Borsaid. "It is therefore necessary that employer organizations aimto promote an enabling business environment that takes intoconsideration issues of care and support," he added. Bor saidthat there is a need to develop or evaluate codes of conduct toaddress emerging issues, perform focused HIV/AIDS surveys andidentify at-risk groups (East African Standard,12/11).

Sophia Kisting, director of ILO's global program onHIV/AIDS in the workplace, said that a lack of coordinationamong employers' organizations, workers, union representatives andthe government is hampering efforts to address the disease, BusinessDay/ reports. "There are so many voices in thewar against AIDS and this is not bearing fruit," Kisting said,adding, "Stigma and policy gaps remain a big hurdle in the fightagainst AIDS at the workplace, putting at risk the lives of thousandsof employees who fear losing their jobs upon declaring their HIVstatus" (Kimani, Business Day/, 12/10).

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