‘Zero plan’ makes good business

2012-10-29 00:00

BUSINESS leaders in KwaZulu-Natal must step up to the plate in the fight against HIV/Aids, as it is not only the right thing to do as good corporate citizens, but it also makes good business sense for the province.

This was the message emerging from the KZN HIV and Aids, TB and Wellness Business Sector Provincial Strategic Plan 2012 to 2016, launched by the South African Business Coalition on HIV and Aids (Sabcoha) in Durban recently.

Sabcoha CEO Brad Mears said yesterday that the plan was the first of its kind for KZN, adding that it provided companies with a blueprint for dealing with the disease.

The launch follows news last week of a breakthrough by South African scientists in developing a vaccine for the disease. A team of South African researchers — including scientists from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Cape Town, Wits and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases — have identified a way the human body could develop powerful antibodies to protect it against HIV.

Mears said the business sector and government acknowledged the devastating impact HIV/Aids had on productivity.

“Fighting the disease successfully will equate to better productivity and higher profits. Dr Clifford Panter of Mercedes-Benz has made the point that it is the job of business to make money and profits, return these to the shareholders, while also creating employment, thereby generating taxes and being a good corporate citizen.

“This will translate into better government delivery and lower our burden of disease. We cannot be a productive society with such a high burden of disease. It [the high disease burden] explains more than a significant component of our low productivity,” Mears said.

The plan, aligned to the government’s interventions on HIV/Aids, strives towards “zero deaths, zero stigma and zero new infections”.

It is part of a national rollout by Sabcoha that has already reached five other provinces.

Some pillars of the plan include the management of alcohol and drug abuse; distribution of male and female condoms and universal access to condoms in the workplace; providing access to counselling and testing, as well as wellness screening options within the workplace and using peer educators to address among other issues: changing social norms, gender-based violence, the culture of acceptance and non-discrimination, inter-generational and transactional sex, and men’s attitude to women.

The plan stresses the importance of the private sector’s role in gathering data on the disease, through the use of Bizwell — Sabcoha’s web-based monitoring and reporting tool.

The design also ensures that there is no duplicate reporting of data.

Increasing the number of responsible reporting companies registered on Bizwell will provide more accurate data on the business sector’s response and enhance the private sector’s relationship with the government and Health Department in particular,” the plan states.

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