Medical research
11 October , SA Corporates Ignore Aids Timebomb

Jackie Cameron

A staggering 60 percent of South African companies have not yet bothered with an anti-HIV/Aids strategy and almost half do not have an official policy, a new Sanlam survey has revealed.

Shocking revelations about corporate SA's approach to the Aids scourge emerged when Sanlam released its 2002 Survey of Retirement Benefits in SA to the pension fund industry in Cape Town this week.

At least 85 percent of the companies surveyed don't permit voluntary HIV testing and almost 75 percent of companies have no idea of the prevalence of HIV within their organisations.

Pension fund trustees expect employers to count the cost of HIV/Aids and factor it in to long-term financial planning for employees, while the employers expect the trustees to tackle the HIV/Aids issue, said Sanlam actuary Rob Rusconi.

Most employers believe the biggest cost of Aids is related to death, but that's not true, he pointed out. "The largest cost isn't the deaths. There are larger costs, like absenteeism from illness and absenteeism from the death of family members."

Reduced morale and replacing skilled staff also take their toll on company finances, he said.

Rusconi warned that HIV/Aids was "not a disease of the unemployed and poverty-stricken". Company retirement fund members are among the hardest hit by this disease.

At least 50 000 of the 500 000 mineworkers in South Africa are expected to die of Aids in 2005, according to the SA government.

The Medical Research Council, meanwhile, has estimated that Aids accounted for 25 percent of all deaths in 2000, making it the single biggest cause of death in the country.