African Employers Gather for Conference To Discuss Impact of HIV/AIDS on Workplaces
Employers from across Africa on Monday ended a two-day workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, that aimed to address the impact of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and review strategies for mitigating the situation, Kenya's Daily Nation reports. The conference, themed "Reinforcing Employers' Interventions on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace in Eastern and Southern Africa," was sponsored by the International Labour 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 a speech at the conference said employers have developed a new evaluation method to gather accurate data about the effect of HIV/AIDS on the workplace. The new method involves assessing the total impact of the disease on a business and factors in medical costs and loss of productivity (Mwiti, Daily Nation, 12/10). According to Mugo, employers estimate that a Kenyan company loses more than 3.6 million shillings -- or about $57,000 -- annually to HIV/AIDS expenditures, the East African Standard reports. "The figure we have given is only the medical bill incurred by employers for eight" HIV-positive employees, Mugo said, adding, "Employers with many infected employees incur bigger losses." According to Mugo, the federation's "monitoring and evaluation mechanisms indicate that the impact of the scourge to business is enormous, and the trend continues to have a negative impact on financial bottom line." She also said businesses experience losses in productivity from absenteeism, medical expenses, and loss of skilled manpower through replacement and training (Adero, East African Standard, 12/11).
Mark Bor, permanent secretary in Kenya's Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development, said that the government is concerned about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the informal sector, the Nation reports. "Small profit margins and too few workers at any one site are among the difficulties encountered in this sector, which employs 6.8 million Kenyans," he said. Bor proposed that HIV/AIDS advisory committees incorporate a cross section of industries to address the problem (Daily Nation, 12/10). "It has been more difficult to implement HIV/AIDS programs in the informal sector for reasons such as too few workers at any one site, lack of appropriate venues for educational sessions and small profit margins that discourage small-business owners from releasing employees for educational sessions," Bor said. "It is therefore necessary that employer organizations aim to promote an enabling business environment that takes into consideration issues of care and support," he added. Bor said that there is a need to develop or evaluate codes of conduct to address emerging issues, perform focused HIV/AIDS surveys and identify at-risk groups (East African Standard, 12/11).
Sophia Kisting, director of ILO's global program on HIV/AIDS in the workplace, said that a lack of coordination among employers' organizations, workers, union representatives and the government is hampering efforts to address the disease, Business Day/AllAfrica.com reports. "There are so many voices in the war against AIDS and this is not bearing fruit," Kisting said, adding, "Stigma and policy gaps remain a big hurdle in the fight against AIDS at the workplace, putting at risk the lives of thousands of employees who fear losing their jobs upon declaring their HIV status" (Kimani, Business Day/AllAfrica.com, 12/10).