Labour Department starts workplace HIV/AIDS study

The SA Labour Department and the HSRC launched a workplace HIV/AIDS study in October 2015, for three years at public and private employers. It is funded by Germany.

Labour minister Mildred Oliphant said government wants to manage the economic impacts of the epidemic. Steel and engineering employers are among the wide range of private industries and employers involved.

“As we shift into evidence-based policy considerations, it is important that we apply the same evidence-based principles in assessing what works… this new project will be using verifiable evidence”.

The new study, “What Works in HIV and AIDS and the World of Work in South Africa”, is a joint initiative of the Department of Labour and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), a technical development agency of the German government.

The study will involve a comprehensive assessment of 50 workplaces. It will showcase practical workplace initiatives and interventions against HIV and Aids, at workplaces that have already initiated programmes, to learn from existing knowledge base.

The project is as an extension of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Multi-Country Study Report, titled “Effective Responses to HIV and AIDS at Work – A Multi-Country Study in Africa, that Oliphant launched for the IL earlier this year.

The project aims at evidence of what impact the interventions have had on; • increasing knowledge of HIV and AIDS
• encouraging growing commitment to voluntary counselling, testing and changing risky behaviour
• reduction in stigma and discrimination
• increasing uptake on anti-retroviral treatment.

The study would guide policy and best practice in dealing with the challenge of HIV and AIDS in the workplace.

Prof Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya of the HSRC would use existing advanced infrastructure expertise in the study.

She said the ultimate business goal is to increase profit margins, reduce costs, and ensure long-term sustainability.

She said the team did not want to re-invent existing occupational health, wellness, or health and safety interventions. “We want to document data obtained from various sectors. We also want to influence policy making”.

The national study will focus on a diverse sample of companies in the private and public sector, in different sectors of business and industry.

The joint study was endorsed by the International Labour Organisation; Business Unity South Africa and; the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA).

Busa Executive Director, Vanessa Phala said evidence-based initiatives were a step in the right direction to grow and transform the economy.

Discussions have started at Nedlac on the phasing in of comprehensive social security.

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba said his organisation believes in partnerships to tackle challenges. Seifsa would sensitise its members about the existence of the research project to get their co-operation.

*Sources; DOL. HSRC.