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International News

Study: High Rate of HIV Infection Among White Staff in South Africa

June 13, 2003

Companies that employ well-educated white-collar workers cannot think that the AIDS epidemic will leave them unscathed, as the technology group T-Systems discovered when at least 7.2 percent of its staff tested HIV-positive. CEO Wolfgang Jakob said he was "more than shocked" by results showing that so many managers, technicians and administrative staff were infected.

An additional fear is that the figures are heavily distorted, since 22 percent of workers declined to be tested, and many of those probably already knew they were HIV-positive. "My executive committee is devastated because this is a high percentage given the education rate and the fact that these are highly skilled people who cost a lot of money to train," said Jakob.

T-Systems has 929 staff, most of them white, well-educated men. The voluntary testing saw 677 staff, or 78.5 percent, participate. The results showed that 15.2 percent of black workers were infected, 6.3 percent of whites, 7.6 percent of colored [mixed race] staff and 3 percent of Indian staff. While the majority of HIV cases were ages 16-25, 4 percent of workers ages 46-55 were also infected. The results would probably apply equally across the private sector, and they prove that HIV is not limited by race nor confined to less well-educated workers, said Jakob.

T-Systems conducted the tests without providing test results to the employees. Now it is encouraging them to take confidential tests, and is offering free counseling and free antiretroviral drugs for themselves and their partner if positive.

Jakob fears that the company and South Africa as a whole will lose out on lucrative outsourcing deals with foreign firms if the epidemic is not curbed. "If we don't deal with it now we will have a 15 percent infection rate in two or three years, and people won't send their offshore work to South Africa," he said.

Back to other CDC news for June 13, 2003

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Adapted from:
06.11.03; Business Day (Johannesburg)

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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