HIV at the workplace
Does HIV have an effect on the workplace?
HIV a real workplace issue:Why?
HIV has been recognized as a major workplace issue. It has become one of the greatest challenges employers in Kenya and the region. The productivity and success of many organizations in all sectors in the country’s economy have suffered greatly in the recent past because of HIV related poor health, low morale, stigma, absenteeism and death of workers. Responses to HIV and AIDS at the workplaces in Kenya have been quite diverse, as informed by individual organization workplace HIV policies and profiles. For Public sector , the response has been to a large extent informed by the GoK public sector workplace policy on HIV and AIDS . This policy emphasizes the need for HIV and AIDS activities to be mainstreamed into the core activities of all public sector organizations. However, while good progress has been made by different organizations in HIV and AIDS programming in the workplace, little has been done to ensure that related factors that increase one’s vulnerability to HIV and AIDS are incorporated into the relevant workplace policies. Such factors include alcohol & substance abuse; gender disparities; disability, among others.
HIV and Gender:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),”gender – defined as the array of societal beliefs, norms, customs and practices that define ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ attributes and behaviors – plays an integral role in determining an individual’s vulnerability and risks to HIV infection, his or her ability to access care, support or treatment, and the ability to cope when infected or affected “. In the context of HIV and AIDS, ones sex and gender greatly determine the extent to which s/he will be vulnerable to HIV infection and in turn to one’s ability to seek and access the available treatments from public private institutions. In Kenya, the HIV prevalence is disproportionately higher among women compared to men – 8% compared to 4.3%. Of those who have ever tested for HIV 58%have been found to be women while 42% are men. The gender-power relations at the workplace also influence the staff’s vulnerability to infection depending with the work environment and culture; and uptake of services provided for within the company’s medical cover, if any.
Employers need to diversify their strategies when it comes to handling their employees. The medical cover provided my most employees is no longer adequate for most families. Besides encouraging their employees to go for HIV testing, employers need to add the following package into their medical cover: screening for all forms of cancer & diabetes, CAGING their staff for alcohol, psycho-social counseling. These services will go along way in enhancing employee productivity at the workplace. Employers also need to address factors at the workplace that increased peoples’ vulnerability to stress and disease. These include working for long hours without provisions for leave, assigning tasks huge workload with minimal support, poor pay, and poor management structures. There is always need for employers to recognize that a healthy workforce, contributes to increased productivity.