SMEs and HIV/AIDS – facts and stats

With HIV/AIDS being so prevalent in Southern Africa, almost no one can say it doesn't affect them in one way or another. Believing that HIV/AIDS may not affect your company or ignoring the problem can be to the detriment of your business.

Here is an eye-opening list of statistics to prove that the mismanagement of HIV/AIDS is not something that can be dismissed as being a non-issue for your business.

  • The majority of HIV-positive South Africans are in the most productive stage of their lives; basically the country's workforce.
  • Urban areas have higher rates of HIV infection, but rural areas also suffer due to lack of resources, awareness, and access to public health facilities.
  • A study by the University of Port Elizabeth identified HIV/AIDS as one of the factors that historically caused South African start-ups to fail every year.
  • Studies show that companies that employ mostly semi-skilled and unskilled workers historically were, and still may be, the hardest hit by the epidemic
  • The loss of a key employee can be disastrous to a small company.
  • The loss of employees has recruitment and training costs associated with it, not to mention the potential downtime.
  • Increased sick leave days or absenteeism of workers taking care of sick relatives or to attend funerals negatively impacts productivity and profits.
  • Employee morale (and therefore productivity and efficiency) is generally lower in companies where workers are ill or dying.
  • Most SMMEs do not have workplace HIV/AIDS programmes, so there is no awareness around preventing HIV and staying healthy if HIV-positive.
  • Research has proved that if companies invest in prevention and treatment programmes, the savings outweigh the costs.
  • Although companies should try to set aside a budget for an HIV/AIDS programme, some interventions can be implemented at little or no cost.

Just because you haven't noticed that HIV/AIDS has affected your company, it does not mean that you're in the clear or that it won't happen in the future. Tackling the problem does not have to dent your profits and will probably be good for business in the long run.

The content in this article was sourced from IFC Against AIDS (2008) and SABCOHA.

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