Cost of National Strategic Plan for HIV-Aids will be partly carried by the corporate world

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

The price tag placed on the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV-Aids will be R45billion for next three years.

But business has little choice but to shoulder some of the burden of funding the implementation of this plan, Brad Mears, chief executive of the South African Business Coalition on HIV and Aids, told a workshop of delegates in Pretoria this week.

According to current projections, an estimated 10 to 40 percent of South Africa's workforce will become infected unless the tide turns, attendees of the Joint Economics Aids and Poverty Programme (Jeapp) workshop heard.

"Big businesses are beginning to use a carrot and stick approach in procurement to ensure suppliers have workplace programmes. So HIV-Aids programmes are part of procurement requirements, but the carrot is that companies help with capacity and material to implement workplace programmes," Mears said.

Over the past eight months the business coalition has played a part in restructuring the South African National Aids Council and has helped to draft the NSP.

Mears said that now the NSP was "an unequivocal document that has received broad consensus among all stakeholders including business", but it did not delineate specifically what each sector should be doing. This was not being worked on at Nedlac, with business committing to specific targets, such as the number of peer educators that should be trained.

Research shows that the mining, metals processing, agribusiness and transport sectors are most affected by the pandemic, with more than 23percent of employees infected with HIV-Aids. Companies are directly affected by lower productivity, absenteeism, vacant posts, the need to retrain and rehire workers, reduced productivity due to staff inexperience or illness and loss of morale among employees. HIV-Aids is affecting business by increasing poverty and therefore lessening the demand for goods and services. This has created a need for businesses to play a bigger role in combating the spread of the pandemic.

Mears said that business was intervening in the informal sector, with a simple programme called BizAids to empower microenterprises to handle any unforeseen risks, including HIV-Aids.

A series of workshops to help companies cope with and plan for the affect of HIV-Aids on the business, its employees and the families connected to the business. The programme runs for 12 to 20 hours and is conducted in English or local languages.