AIDS wreaks havoc on SA business: Study
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AIDS wreaks havoc on SA business: Study

South Africa's key sectors were badly hit by AIDS leading to a dip in profits and productivity.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2005 20:17 IST

South Africa's key sectors were badly hit by AIDS in the past year to September leading to a dip in profits and productivity, according to a study released on Wednesday.

"The mining, manufacturing and transport sectors are biggest hit," said Brad Mears, Chief Executive of the South African Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS (SABCOHA) which has been conducting annual research on the impact of AIDS on business for the past three years.

"Forty per cent of the manufacturers and transport companies and 60 per cent of the mines report that HIV/AIDS has led to a loss of experience and vital skills in their organisations."

South Africa has one of the highest AIDS rates in the world with around one in seven people, or 6.5 million, infected with the virus, according to figures released by the Health Ministry in July.

Mears said more than 1,030 companies in eight economic sectors were surveyed this year, the biggest such study in South Africa to date.

"When asked how HIV/AIDS is affecting company profits, 55 per cent of the mines, 46 per cent of the transport companies and 38 per cent of the manufacturers surveyed reported that profitability has already been adversely affected by HIV/AIDS," it said.

"Profitability in the retail, wholesale, motor trade and building and construction sectors appear to be relatively less affected, but respondents in all eight sectors expect the impact of the epidemic to escalate over the next five years."

The study found that AIDS had biggest impact on labour productivity and worker absenteeism.

"A number of companies are also experiencing higher labour turnover rates, lost experiences and skills and high recruitment and training costs due to the epidemic," the study said.

Most small and medium sized businesses did not have any awareness or treatment programmes in place, while larger companies were pro-active in dealing with the pandemic.

Forty per cent of large companies provided anti-retroviral drugs to their employees, while 17 per cent of medium-sized and three per cent of small-sized businesses had treatment programmes.

But the study showed that due to stigma and perceived discrimination against HIV-positive people, not many workers take advantage of the AIDS programmes.

"More than 75 per cent of the mines and financial services companies with HIV/AIDS programmes in place indicated that stigma or discrimination has undermined the effectiveness of their programmes, that is participation and take-up rates," the study noted.

First Published: Nov 30, 2005 20:17 IST