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More Companies Are Creating Programs to Help Alleviate Worldwide




 

NEW YORK, April 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Major companies are creating a wide variety of programs to help employees deal with the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a report released today by The Conference Board, the global business research and membership organization.

The report finds that 82 percent of the 134 major firms surveyed have HIV/AIDS programs aimed at helping employees already suffering from the disease or at risk of infection. The study is based on a survey of 134 leading health-benefits and HR executives, as well as in-depth interviews with directors of company HIV/AIDS programs and attorneys specializing in disability and HIV/AIDS law. The study builds on a 1997 report on the corporate response to this dilemma. It also draws on the experiences of companies whose operations in sub-Saharan Africa and other high-prevalence regions have put them on the disease's front lines.

More than two-thirds of the surveyed companies have been affected by HIV/AIDS, with one-fifth of these firms anticipating a growing impact of this epidemic over the next three years. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 67 percent of all adults and children suffering from HIV last year. The disease has yet to peak in most of southern Africa.

Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe/Central Asia are high-risk regions. Asia accounted for 14.5 percent of global HIV cases in 2007, and a 23.1 percent rise in the rate of the newly infected between 2001 and 2007. Latin America accounted for 4.8 percent of all cases and a 23.1 percent increase in new infections. Eastern Europe/Central Asia accounted for 4.8 percent of all cases, and a 34 percent hike in new infections.

A Worldwide Dilemma

Worldwide, the number of people living with HIV rose from 29 million in 2001 to 33.2 million in 2007. Forty percent of new cases are among individuals 15 to 24, the age at which employees are just entering the workforce and will require ever greater medical care throughout their working lives. Companies feel the impact of HIV/AIDS in many ways. Fewer skilled workers and managers, greater absenteeism and turnover, and higher healthcare and insurance costs can reduce productivity and increase expenses.

"While there is no cure, medical advances have made it possible for people with the disease to live longer, achieve better quality of life, and be more productive, both at home and in the workplace," said Henry Silvert, Research Associate at The Conference Board and author of the report. "In response to this new reality, and faced with an expected growth of new infections, more companies have been stepping up efforts to provide programs that effectively meet the needs of their employees living with the disease, or the risk of infection."

In 1997, The Conference Board published its first report on the corporate response to HIV/AIDS. Ten years later, HIV/AIDS in the Workplace examines the current state of company programs around the world. The report examines trends, best practices, benefits and challenges that executives have faced in their efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS needs of their employees.

Some key findings:

-- Few firms have totally escaped the impact of HIV/AIDS. Over two-thirds of respondents' company operations have been affected by HIV/AIDS. One-fifth expect more impact from HIV/AIDS over the next three years.

-- More than 90 percent of firms plan to maintain or increase their spending on HIV/AIDS over the coming years. Firms with operations in high-prevalence sub-Saharan Africa lead in planned spending increases.

-- North America and Western/Central Europe account for 3.9 percent and 2.3 percent of all HIV cases, respectively, and experienced flat rates of new infections between 2001 and 2007.

-- Regardless of location, respondents identified the following non-financial concerns as the top motivators for investing in HIV/AIDS related programs: social responsibility; creating and sustaining an inclusive environment for all employees; welfare of employees living with HIV/AIDS.

-- Three-quarters of firms report some type of gain from their programs. Top gains include increased awareness of the risk factors associated with HIV/AIDS, decreased fears of becoming infected, increased worker morale, increased motivation and commitment, and decreased absenteeism.

-- Corporate initiatives vary from education and prevention to counseling and treatment, depending on company priorities, industry and location. Companies in sub-Saharan Africa are most likely to offer on-site treatment.

-- Employee assistance programs were the top overall initiative in both the 1997 and 2007 surveys. Among companies with HIV/AIDS programs, education and training programs, resource and referral services, and HIV/AIDS counseling were the top initiatives.

-- Common hurdles include a lack of funds or personnel, an obstructive corporate culture that fosters resistance, and difficulty guaranteeing privacy and freedom from discrimination.

-- Support from top management is vital in encouraging buy-in from across the organization, along with disciplined follow-through and accountability.

Source: HIV/AIDS in the Workplace

Research Report No. 1423, The Conference Board

The Conference Board

The Conference Board creates and disseminates knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance and better serve society. Working as a global independent membership organization in the public interest, The Conference Board conducts conferences, makes forecasts and assesses trends, publishes information and analysis, and brings executives together to learn from one another. The Conference Board is a not-for-profit organization and holds 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United States. Visit The Conference Board's website -- http://www.conference-board.org

SOURCE The Conference Board

http://www.conference-board.org



 


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Information in this article was accurate in April 10, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.