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Call to initiate HIV/AIDS worker protection plans
Wednesday 25 May 2005
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AFRICA: Call to initiate HIV/AIDS worker protection plans

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

ACCRA, 19 November (PLUSNEWS) - Unless sub-Saharan African countries initiate workplace anti-AIDS programmes, the pandemic will decimate the region's human resource capacity, experts warned in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on Friday.

"African companies already find it difficult to compete in global markets," Ghana's presidential advisor on HIV/AIDS, Professor Fred Sai, told the fourth interactive meeting of the UN Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA).

The Commission was established last year in response to the multiple challenges posed to Africa by HIV/AIDS.

"With AIDS already raising production costs and making investment in Africa even riskier, the epidemic will diminish even further our firms' competitiveness," Sai added.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), by 2010 HIV/AIDS will cause the total labour force in 35 African countries to drop by nine percent.

The two-day Ghana interactive meeting deliberated on the development of modules to slow down the spread of the disease in work-related environments, as well as providing treatment and care to infected workers.

"West Africa is lagging behind East and South Africa, where workplace policies on HIV/AIDS are being implemented," CHGA's AIDS research director, Nana Poku, told PlusNews.

"There is the mentality that the region is the least affected on the continent. This is dangerous - it could lead to complacency and manifest in phenomenal increases in infection rates. From 1992 to 1998, Cameroon, for instance, witnessed a six-fold increase in its HIV prevalence rates," Poku said.

Though the ILO has designed modules for 'Workplace Action Plans on HIV/AIDS', it emerged at the Accra meeting that the strategies of most West African states were either at the draft stage or yet to be implemented.

Multinational companies like Coca-Cola, AngloGold Ashanti and Barclays Bank had instituted in-house programmes to cope with the pandemic, but the vast majority of companies remained largely ignorant of the looming dangers HIV-AIDS posed to their workforce.

"Most participants at the Accra interactive meeting said their countries were making efforts to tackle the situation, but they all mentioned that rising costs were affecting the implementation of their projects," said Eddie Dunton, who runs the West Africa AIDS Foundation, an HIV care and treatment clinic in Accra.

Ghana, for example, had created a separate fund outside its health budget to cater for HIV/AIDS related programmes, and although its HIV/AIDS budget this year doubled from US $1.5 million in 2003, only 1,724 of the estimated 71,000 people needing antiretrovirals were on the government's heavily subsidised treatment programmes.

"We will witness tremendous changes if the same efforts and financing which are channeled into political campaigns are directed to tackling the HIV situation," Dunton added.

The demands imposed by the disease seemed overwhelming, but CHGA officials were optimistic that solutions could be found to arrest the spread of the pandemic in West Africa.

"The most important thing is to agree on a workable plan. Once we do that, the next stage will be to find ways of tackling the problem such as decentralising healthcare, especially into the rural areas," CHGA's Poku commented.

The Commission's final report on the series of interactive meetings will be published in June 2005.


Recent AFRICA Reports
UN leaders call for urgent action,  25/May/05
New ways of combating HIV/AIDS bear fruit,  20/May/05
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 234, 20 May 2005,  20/May/05
World AIDS Vaccine Day - still major challenges in search for a vaccine,  18/May/05
AIDS named as leading cause of death,  17/May/05
Le portail d'informations générales de la Côte d’Ivoire
The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria

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