Every company must have an Aids policy

April 7, 2008

Every company must have an Aids policy

by: Sheldon Vos

Sheldon Vos

NELSPRUIT – The Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (LCBT) met for a net-working breakfast at News Caf recently, with a talk about Aids in the workplace by Mr Jaco Venter of Mopani Pharmacy.

"Seven years ago people scoffed at the statis-tics scientists were forecasting. Today the reality has hit us."

Venter said that a number of social conditions in South Africa contributed to the rapid spread of the disease, and that women were particularly vulnerable.

Poverty, rapid migration from rural to urban areas and a culture of violence all disrupted the normal social fibres that make for a stable society.

He said that a culture of stigmatism and discrimination against Aids victims had also hampered efforts to stem the Aids disaster, but that this culture was rapidly changing. "Every company has to have an Aids policy in place," said Venter. This was not just to help eradicate the disease from society, but also to prevent potential liabilities upon the company from the disease.

"Between 10 and 40 per cent of South Africa`s workforce has Aids. Ninety per cent of people with the disease are economically active." According to Venter, if companies do not have an Aids policy in place, the disease could end up costing them between one and five years the annual salary of a victim.

The broader consequences of the pandemic include a decrease in life expectancy in the country, a rise in child fatalities, and an in-crease in the number of destitute and vulner-able children. Without medical intervention, the typical Aids sufferers life expectancy is around 12 years after contracting the disease.

A regular regimen of ART`s will help to keep the bloodstream virus free, and a balanced diet is essential for keeping the immune system as strong as possible.

This includes well cleaned fruit and vegetables, and ideally a good, fat-soluble multi vitamin. Employers need to be aware that newly diagnosed victims will need to go for check-ups after two, four and eight weeks.

Further check-ups will occur after one month, three months, and thereafter every six months, unless there are complications. If treatment fails, patients may be put into home-based or palliative care.

On medical aid, patients can get their medi-cine from the pharmacy instead of going to the clinic, and companies like Mopani will even deliver to the place of work, saving on time off. Legislation that affects employer obligations includes the Labour Relations Act and the Employment Equity Act, and principles written into the constitution.

Barnard wrapped up the talk by saying that recent research showed that 75% of Nelspruit`s matriculants were sexually active.

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