translation agency

CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Machines Replacing People Due to AIDS
Lynne Altenroxel
October 16, 2003
Star (South Africa) (10.16.03) - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Demographers attending the Joint Population Conference in Potchefstroom, South Africa, yesterday were told that companies are adapting to the HIV epidemic by replacing employees with machines to avoid the costs of absenteeism and paying out pensions to the families of employees who die young. "A machine works 24 hours a day and it doesn't get sick," explained economist Ian Marsberg. "When it breaks down, you replace it - no hassles." Job losses are widespread and unemployment is increasing despite South Africa's economic growth. One recent study presented showed how the breadwinners of almost one-third of households in Cape Town's townships had lost a job in the previous year.

Professor Carel van Aardt, of Unisa's Bureau for Market Research, said that a bureau survey found a majority of South African companies did not see AIDS as a big threat - they simply adjusted their strategies to cope with its impact. This included a shift toward contract labor and spending more on technology, both of which are bad news for job creation. This also translates into greater reliance on exporting, because the resulting job losses mean that fewer people have money to buy even basic necessities.

Several studies comparing the household expenditure of families affected by HIV show that non-affected families have much more money to spend on everything from electricity to soap. Those with one or more dying relatives diverted funds to pay for medical needs and funerals, and gradually used up their savings for food.

Extrapolating from these studies, van Aardt showed how AIDS would reduce spending on basic items such as food, clothing and household appliances. The unemployment rate is expected to drop by 14 percent between 2000 and 2015. However, speakers at the conference disputed the World Bank assessment that South Africa's economy will collapse within three generations if nothing is done about the HIV epidemic.