Eskom has a long-standing HIV/AIDS program that has evolved as both the epidemic and the Company's understanding of it have grown:
Motivation for action
Eskom initiated a HIV/AIDS policy as far back as 1988, covering education, surveillance and counselling. However, by the mid-1990s Eskom became aware of the real threat of HIV/AIDS to its business and its workforce. The Company commissioned an impact analysis of HIV/AIDS on its operations. The projections, including a 26% HIV prevalence rate in the workforce in ten years in the absence of any interventions, motivated Eskom to declare HIV/AIDS a strategic priority.In developing its program, Eskom formed two specific committees. Its strategic committee looked at the impact of HIV/AIDS on the Company and employees and developed strategies to cope with the impact.
Its operational committee developed and implemented education, prevention and care programs. An HIV/AIDS cost center was created in 1996 to monitor education, awareness and care costs. In 1999, direct costs, not including Medical Aid, amounted to R125 per employee (circa $US19), including treatment of opportunistic infections.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Policies and practices are reviewed annually to ensure non-discrimination in all business processes, including recruitment and procurement. The Company has trained staff to track the trends and impact of HIV/AIDS using a model developed by the Harvard Institute of International Development.
Results and Lessons
A key component of Eskom's program is the emphasis placed on monitoring and evaluation. Eskom's experience shows how reliable information on the impact of the epidemic can first be used to trigger and then direct an effective company response. After the initial impact study undertaken in 1995, Eskom commissioned a more sophisticated HIV/AIDS risk analysis in 1999, taking account of the demographics of employees. This highlighted the economic and financial impact, particularly in terms of productivity, loss of personnel, training needs and pension and medical costs. The company also undertook knowledge and attitude studies (demonstrating 80 percent awareness and knowledge levels) and an anonymous and voluntary HIV/AIDS surveillance study (showing that HIV prevalence was lower than the 1995 prediction of 11 percent). These studies have provided evidence of success to date and will help assess the effectiveness of future actions and training.
Other benefits that Eskom identify are: the support and cooperation from management, employees and unions; low incidence of discrimination against the field workers with HIV/AIDS; and a greater willingness of employees to seek more information about their risks and HIV status.
Eskom's corporate responsibility programs on HIV/AIDS, including its support for the development of an AIDS vaccine, were born largely out its workplace program, and are underpinned by the conviction that the benefits of HIV/AIDS prevention and care strategies outweigh the costs of an unchecked spread of HIV/AIDS within the workplace and communities.