South Africa has an estimated 8.45 million people living with HIV, which accounts for 13.9% of the population as of 2023.

HIV is a viral infection that can be transmitted through contact with infected semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk. This virus attacks and weakens the immune system of those infected, making it difficult for them to fight off other infections. Globally, the number of people living with HIV has increased over the past two decades, however with the introduction of antiretroviral drugs in recent years, the number of HIV-related deaths has significantly decreased.

Despite HIV/AIDS being a chronic illness, those living with the disease can live a long life if they are diligent in taking their medication to manage the progression of the virus in their body.

The best practices for dealing with HIV/Aids in the workplace.

The Code of Practice sets out ten key principles to provide the basis for policy and legislation:

1.      Recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue

2.      Non-discrimination

3.      Gender equality

4.      A safe and healthy work environment

5.      Social dialogue

6.      Prohibition of screening for purposes of exclusion from work

7.      Confidentiality

8.      Continuation of employment relationship

9.      Prevention

10.   Care and support, including treatment.

The importance of having HIV programmes in the workplace

  • Together, employers and employees can support prevention through workplace education programmes and provide care, even treatment.
  • Keeping affected employees at work contributes to their well-being, maintains productivity and morale, and sets an example of non-discrimination.
  • Use the programmes and structures that are already in place (occupational safety and health, in-service training, workplace committee, etc.)
  • Through worker-management consultation, agree to a policy that commits the workplace to action with ‘zero tolerance’ for discrimination.
  • Get baseline information on your workplace, and map what’s available in the community
  • Agree to a programme and make an action plan for carrying it out

The programme details will depend on the local situation, for example, HIV prevalence in the community and modes of transmission; knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of staff; services already available in the workplace or nearby.

You should:

  • Assess the impact of the epidemic on your workplace and find out the needs of employees by carrying out a confidential baseline survey;
  • Find out what health and information services are already available both at the workplace and in the community;
  • Agree to a plan of action which identifies objectives, strategy, target groups and methods of delivery; establish a budget; monitor the impact of your programme and revise as necessary;
  • Set up an HIV/AIDS committee or steering group to take responsibility for the process and report regularly to the highest decision-making body in the organisation
  • There may be an existing committee that could do the job, for instance, occupational health and safety

Key components of workplace prevention

  1. Education builds on basic information and awareness. It helps people apply general messages to their situation and behaviour and gives them the tools to assess and reduce their personal risk.
  2. Practical measures include the provision of condoms, access to treatment for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and occupational safety and health.
  3. An atmosphere of trust and open discussion of HIV and AIDS, based on the full involvement of the workforce will make a great difference to the success of your programme. The involvement of people living with HIV in planning and implementation will also increase its effectiveness.
  4. Ensuring confidentiality. Protecting the privacy of affected employees and ensuring confidentiality will build trust between stakeholders.
  5. Extending access through partnerships, linking up with NGOs and community organisations such as networks of people living with AIDS and home-based care groups.
  6. Provide a statement of commitment and a framework for action.
  7. Lays down a standard of behaviour that gives guidance to supervisors and managers.
  8. Helps employees living with HIV understand what support and care they can expect.

HIV workplace intervention programmes – values and principles

  • Baseline survey disaggregates knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of men and women
  • Workplace policy is gender-specific, specifies zero tolerance for sexual harassment and has a clear complaints procedure
  • Organisations avoid practices that encourage risk-taking behaviour,
  • Workplace programme targets men and women explicitly:- education for women explains their risks and empowers them to protect themselves- education for men promotes responsibility in sexual behaviour
  • Gender balance exists on relevant HIV committees and among peer educators
  • Women have equal access to and uptake of confidential voluntary testing and ARV treatment
  • Reasonable accommodation (adjustments to tasks, work station and rest breaks) takes into account caregiving demands on women employees
  • Deployment of staff away from home is reduced, and family housing is provided where relevant
  • Workplace programmes include the families of employees:- prevention programmes for spouses and children, including information on mother-to-child transmission- insurance schemes that cover employees and dependants- links with community-based credit and savings schemes to strengthen the economic security of the household.

How Kaelo contributes to the well-being of South Africans affected by HIV/AIDS

Kaelo has been involved in HIV prevention and treatment since 2004. Over the years, Kaelo has developed its wellness programmes and products to provide innovative, essential healthcare solutions enabling the physical and psychological well-being of all South Africans. Our one goal is to provide more South Africans with access to quality healthcare.

Kaelo has a robust Lifestyle programme with experienced counsellors to contribute to the care and support of employees and their immediate families.

Kaelo provides healthcare solutions that allow South Africans to access private healthcare such as hospital facilities, healthcare providers, and medicine and includes an HIV programme.

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