The Next Steps in Corporate Management of HIV/Aids

– Key actions for corporates to achieve 90-90-90 plan

Dwindling financial resources, donor fatigue and the recent revelation that an estimated 8.4 million citizens are living with HIV, can only mean that more is required from the private sector to manage this disease. And while many sectors have taken a proactive stance, there can be no doubt that a committed, managed response is required from corporate South Africa both in terms of its employees and the communities in which they operate, if the country is to overcome the effects of HIV/Aids.

A Co-operative Approach

Sessional lecturer at Monash South Africa and speaker at the 21st International Aids Conference, Dr Henry Fomundam believes that public private partnerships (PPPs) are crucial if South Africa is to give up its top spot on the list of countries with the highest infections. “From financing the construction of clinics in rural areas, to sponsoring equipment and supporting training programmes which educate nurses, counsellors and members of the community, there is much that can be done by the private sector,” explains Dr Fomundam.

An HIV/Aids Management Plan that Works

Perhaps most crucial to the management of the effects of the pandemic is the development of an effective and collaborative managed workplace plan that eliminates stigma and provides much needed support to those with a positive status.

Dr Fomundam alongside fellow sessional lecturer in Monash South Africa’s postgraduate diploma in management specialising in HIV/Aids programme, Dr Puleng Ramataboe, who also spoke at the International Aids Conference, offer the following key points to HR and other professionals wishing to develop or refine an effective HIV/Aids policy within their organisation:

  1. A workforce plan is not developed in isolation

Corporate or community management plans must take government policy, as well as the latest research findings into account. The national agenda, for example, seeks to ensure that 90% of the population have been tested and are aware of their HIV status as part of the 90-90-90 concept (90% of people diagnosed with HIV, 90% of diagnosed people on treatment and 90% of treated people virally suppressed).

Companies can play an important role in this drive by encouraging all members of staff to be tested, and providing opportunities for them to do so as regularly as possible.

  1. Create an enabling environment
    Every HIV/Aids management plan should create an enabling environment for those living with the disease, in terms of access to care. The Department of Health sets out key guidelines when it comes to testing, visits to the clinic, adherence to treatment and follow-up appointments at recommended laboratories. Corporates must investigate and use these resources.Employers must take these factors into account when setting out their plan and ensure that they are able to advise members of staff on how best to manage this chronic condition. In short, sustainability and adherence to treatment are key factors in an effective and truly supportive HIV/Aids management plan.
  2. A willingness to assist and support
    A sincere willingness to provide assistance to employees living with this disease is crucial to a successful HIV/Aids policy. Providing additional sick leave days to ensure members of staff do in fact attend their follow-up appointments is a good example of a truly compassionate management framework.
    Confidentiality, sensitivity and a commitment to de-stigmatising the disease should also form the basis of a sound management plan. Participation is key from all levels of staff.
  3. Budget allocation
    Last on their list of recommendations, is the allocation of budget and resources to ensure that HIV/Aids, and indeed any chronic conditions, are managed with compassion and efficacy. Not only will this lead to a greater sense of employee wellness, but will contribute to greater productivity, understanding and cohesion among team members regardless of their status.

“A policy of this nature can only be deemed successful if it is developed with the participation of all employees, and also makes its way to board level for regular review. Furthermore, it should be a working document that continues to take the latest research findings and government policy into account, thereby ensuring that it remains an evidence-based document at all times,” concludes Dr Ramataboe.