God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

HIV @ the work place – 17.06.2010

Talk at the economic forum “Bavaria meets Western Cape” in Cape Town – outline of the talk  – as usual “check against delivery”

HIV/AIDS in the workplace – I am sure when you saw the topic some of you were considering a second coffee break – what new can come from this topic – even presented by a priest who has no dealing with business affairs.. And you are right… I do not have any hard core dealings… and when I present this, I have in mind on one surely your business interest – a dying worker is not a very productive worker… – and even with all our turn around in the month before the world cup – thousands are dying still every week as a result of HIV and AIDS – round about 800 per day to be more precise – and on the other hand – you should be aware and taking on the duty to realise, that you offer your employers much more than just a money earning scheme – you offer them meaning in life. Without getting to philosophical – with your workplace you offer your employers also meaning and purpose in life and you owe them a deeper understanding and commitment than only the salary sleep at the end of the week or month.

So let’s see this 20 minutes rather as a time of reflection – which fits a priest much more I guess…

Not only since the World Economic Forums in Switzerland we know and you are aware, that HIV/AIDS is impacting on economic benefits and social progress around the world. The CIA calls it in one of their reports one of the major threats to stability on our planet – and when you want to do business – there must be stability and people who produce and people who buy… That is the easy circle to have revenue and success with your business. Besides all costs for an individual company, HIV is known to delay human resource development, it undermines certainly the skills base and for South Africa it means that investors have to look twice before investing in a country with almost 6 million infected people.

Companies are obviously also direct affected ranging from lower productivity, greater absenteeism till less reliable supply chains and distribution channels – another consideration is surely the question of medical coverage, funeral covers and pension funds. I guess that most small and medium companies never made the effort to calculate the costs of this pandemic for there business – the bigger companies are running since years programs to tackle the pandemic – Daimler Chrysler, BMW, Volkswagen, De Beers, Anglo American and many more. They – and as big companies they are able – to use the direct access to the most affected, the productive members of our society, to tackle the pandemic by education, training and treatment. And in doing so they also prevent more erosion of our society – breadwinner of the family, who die away means that others in the family have to stand in, abandoning as youngsters for example their school education to provide an income which creates a circle of non education – difficult to employ – unemployed with all the consequences of alcohol abuse, drugs, prostitution etc. If you meet a 14 year old responsible for a family then you know what I mean…

You might realise by now – looking at and confronting HIV means not only a direct benefit for the company but also to the society, your company is working in. Healthy worker in a stable and healthy family environment and they again in a stable social environment are the basics for good business.. So what can you do as a small, medium and big company?

Be aware of the pandemic – don’t be ignorant – that’s the first rule – and if I say ignorant I mean not only that you acknowledge that HIV / AIDS is also around you – but that also this is not a black pandemic, but a south African one, a rainbow one.. The virus is an ideal South African – he does not discriminate against race or gender or profession or education or sexual preferences… Be focused like you are focused on other aspects of your business: If you are a big company – consider a proper HIV / AIDS programme, if you have not done yet. Do it yourself or get in touch with those doing it already – gain from their expertise in setting up mechanism within your company to deal with prevention, treatment, care and support.

60-80% of mining, manufacturing, financial services and transport companies have implemented HIV and AIDS awareness programmes, the most hard hit companies have full fledged  workplace HIV programmes that now even develop in so called wellness programs and they stretch further than just the employee covering also his/her family. As a smaller firm, you cannot do it – it is financially not feasible. But you can connect with your nearest clinic and make sure that your employees are knowledgeable about HIV and AIDS and that they are aware of the services of the neighbouring clinic. VCT should be always on the agenda and a proper HIV/AIDS policy – every company is able to spell out to their employees how stigma and discrimination is not an option and that the moral codex of the company and the mission statements starts with the fellow colleagues and not only with the customer.

HOPE Cape Town, my organisation is more than willing to give advice or assist in setting up such a policy.

All in leading positions in a company should also lead in this field. Senior staff, GM, CEO’s, Board members should be able and without shyness to talk to their employees about HIV and AIDS. Even if you organise prevention workshops or there like, I am always amazed to see that the senior staff seems to know it all and that there is a definite “no show” from a certain level of the hierarchy onwards. Not sure that this is leading by example.. Or the senior staff knows it all – but why then invite an expert…? Or do you think that there is no transmission for CEO’s and managers? I can tell you something: HIV and AIDS is such a dynamic field that information you gathered last year might not be correct this year. To give you an example: Until recently the criteria for commencing treatment was a CD 4 count of 250 and lower – which meant that in most in instances the person had to become very sick before treatment was offered. That changed and now people receive much earlier treatment with the result

I guess that is enough for now, thanks for listening to this for South Africa very serious topic – and help that we can get to a new generation of South Africans without HIV or AIDS.

Information and figures are taken from various websites

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , ,

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HIV, AIDS and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in Africa is often a challenge. Living in Africa has also its challenges. On the other hand I feel very much blessed having all the three. So you will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa and essential information and developments in the field of HIV and AIDS. And in between personal stories and thoughts. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me - blogs - "thinking loud" so to speak is a ways of communication and exchange of ideas.

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