Benefits of HIV/AIDS Programs in Workplace Outweigh Costs, Report Says
Companies can save money and retain more employees by implementing HIV/AIDS programs in the workplace, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Organization for Migration, Reuters reports. The study examined data from seven of the largest copper mining and agricultural companies in Zambia, which each employ 350 to 10,000 people (Nebehay, Reuters, 11/13).
According to an IOM release, the study calculated the costs of operating HIV workplace programs -- including health care, peer education, counseling and testing, and staff time spent on the program -- with the costs of HIV/AIDS to the company -- including employee turnover, training new staff, loss of productivity, absenteeism and funeral costs. The Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, IOM and the National AIDS Council of Zambia conducted the study, which was funded by the groups and USAID (IOM release, 11/13).
The report found workplace HIV/AIDS programs reduced employee absenteeism, turnover rates and loss of productivity, as well as helped employees handle discrimination and learn about prevention. Six of the seven companies showed net benefits for their HIV/AIDS programs, amounting to an average of $47 per employee in 2006, according to the report. IOM spokesperson Jemini Pandya said that the "larger the company, the greater the benefits it derived," noting that the largest company with an HIV/AIDS program saved nearly $500,000 in what would have been lost productivity.
According to IOM, the average company spent nearly $9,000 per employee with HIV, including funeral expenses and the costs of paying supervisors to train new employees.
HIV "had an enormous impact on all companies among all ranges of skills," Pandya said, adding, "By implementing a range of HIV programs for staff, the benefits far outweigh the costs, both human and financial." About 17% of adults in Zambia are HIV-positive, and many large private-sector companies employ migrant workers who are at high risk of HIV infection (Reuters, 11/13).
The report is available online (.pdf).