Most East African Companies Unaware of Employees’ HIV Status, Survey Shows
Most companies in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia do not know how many of their employees are HIV-positive, according to a survey released on Tuesday by accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, VOA News reports. PwC between July 2003 and September 2003 asked more than 216 companies in the four countries how they were responding to the epidemic. According to the results, most companies had not tried to determine the number of HIV-positive workers they employ. Companies that did make estimates about their employees' HIV status noted company HIV/AIDS prevalence rates "far below the national average" for their country, according to VOA News. According to the survey, 88% of the companies reported that they provide medical coverage for their employees, but nearly 33% of the companies said that they do not provide HIV/AIDS treatment coverage. In addition, 10% of companies asked prospective employees to be tested for HIV as a condition of employment; 83% of companies said that they do not discriminate against HIV-positive employees, according to the survey. Nearly 40% of companies surveyed said that they have an HIV/AIDS program in place, comprised mostly of prevention programs and antiretroviral drug treatment programs.
Charles Muchene, PwC country leader in Kenya, said that most of the companies interviewed are taking the "ostrich approach." He added, "I think a lot of businesses still see this as a social or a health issue, perhaps something that has got little to do with business, and they see this as a problem for some other people out there to deal with." According to Muchene, some of the HIV/AIDS-related costs for businesses include absenteeism, more frequent recruitment and training, medical fees and a loss of reputation if the company is considered "oblivious" to the epidemic among workers and in the community, according to VOA News. Muchene said, "Very few businesses have sat back to try and assess the impact of HIV/AIDS on their business, and if you do not understand the impact of the pandemic on your business, then you're not likely to do anything" (Majtenyi, VOA News, 2/10).