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HIV/AIDS Will Have Significant Negative Impact on South African Businesses in Next Five Years, Survey Shows

December 11, 2003

HIV/AIDS has had a "significant" adverse impact on the business practices of 9% of companies in South Africa, and 43% of companies predicted they would feel an impact from the disease within five years, according to the results of an independent survey released on Wednesday, Reuters reports. The South African Bureau for Economic Research and the South African Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS surveyed 1,006 South African companies in October and November and found that approximately 30% of the firms reported higher labor turnover rates, 27% had "lost experience and skills" and 24% amassed recruitment and training costs because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic (Reuters, 12/10). The survey, which was conducted among the manufacturing, retail, wholesale, motor trade and building and construction sectors, also found that HIV/AIDS has had a "smaller or less noticeable" impact on the demand side of business, with less than 10% of companies participating in the survey reporting a negative impact on their sales, the South African Press Association reports. According to SABCOHA spokesperson Leighton McDonald, 18% of companies said they predicted appointing extra employees, or "work shadowing," to compensate for the epidemic's impact on productivity, absenteeism and mortality.

Companies' Responses
According to the survey, most companies have not responded to the epidemic, McDonald said, adding that only 25% of companies surveyed have implemented formal HIV/AIDS policies and fewer than 20% of companies have a voluntary counseling and testing program or provide care, treatment and support to HIV-positive employees. However, employers are implementing some "less resource-intensive interventions," including workplace HIV/AIDS awareness programs, and 41% of participating companies said that they had implemented an HIV/AIDS awareness program, McDonald said, according to the South African Press Association. McDonald said that company responses were connected to company size, with most of the larger companies saying that they have HIV/AIDS policies and small companies with less than 100 employees "having done little in the way of action against the epidemic," the South African Press Association reports. McDonald said that business response to HIV/AIDS should be "speeded up," adding, "With rising HIV prevalence and clear evidence of the adverse impact of the epidemic on business in South Africa, companies should not be lagging behind with regard to the implementation of HIV/AIDS policies and programs" (South African Press Association, 12/10). He added, "HIV/AIDS is undoubtedly a bottom line issue for business, as it impacts on production costs and consumer markets" (Reuters, 12/10).

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