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South African Press Association
Business is On Its Own With HIV/Aids: Labour Specialists

April 2, 2003
The entire private sector must create plans similar to that of the mining industry to combat HIV/Aids because the government has not totally committed itself to fight the pandemic, labour consultants said on Wednesday.

"These companies should, just like the mining sector, do an impact study ... and approach it from that angle," Izaak Minnaar, an employee benefits actuary, said.

"The cost of implementing such a programme is less than if they do nothing. (HIV/Aids) is a financial risk to the companies," he said.

Minnaar was speaking at the launch of the 21st Annual Report on Labour Relations and Employee Benefits in South Africa. Labour economist Andrew Levy compiled the report.

Last year, mining houses AngloGold, De Beers, Harmony and Anglo Platinum committed themselves to create programmes that seek to reduce the impact of HIV/Aids to their workforce.

De Beers and AngloGold went further, and declared that they would start HIV/Aids treatment programmes for all their employees.

The report said: "In the absence of a dramatic medical breakthrough, it is becoming obvious that nobody in the corporate world will escape the financial consequences.

"The only possible hope for alleviation lies in a concerted intervention strategy by all stakeholders to slow down the progression of the epidemic, and to manage the associated risks," the document said.

It said the number of people, who were infected with Aids in South Africa was projected to peak at about 7.7 million in 2006 to 2007, and to taper off to about 7.2 million by 2010 -- mainly as a result of increased Aids mortality.

"It is estimated that due to the Aids pandemic, Gauteng (South Africa's economic hub) could lose 500000 of the potentially economically active population between the ages of 20 and 59," the report said.

The shrinking of the working age population would translate directly into a decrease in available labour resources and a risk of declining productivity as a result of the pandemic.

In 2002, the United National Aids programme reported that about five million South Africans lived with HIV/Aids, and some 4.7 million of these people were aged between 15 and 49.

"With the decline in the economically active population, expenditure on sickness and related benefits and pensions for surviving dependants will increase as a percentage of the national wage bill.

"At the same time, tax revenues will decrease and government will have less resources available for economic development," the report said.

Levy said even though the government said in 2002 that it was committed to fighting the pandemic, its commitment was uncertain.

"The manner and extent of this commitment is uncertain in light of its (government's) past record of ambivalence," he said.

"There has still not been an unequivocal commitment by the state (to fighting HIV/Aids), but there is a severe epidemic and it is growing," Levy said.



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