Business sector now ‘more concerned’ about HIV/AIDSFriday, December 23, 2005 – 1:11 pm
Source: Stabroek News
Director of Technical Services of the Guyana HIV/AIDS Reduction and Prevention Project (GHARP) Dr. Jomo Osborne has told Stabroek Business that the local private sector has, in recent times, become more seized of the implications of HIV/AIDS for the viability of business in Guyana.
Dr. Osborne, who is directly responsible for overseeing the GHARP/ Private Sector partnership said that apart from the twenty business entities that committed themselves to a partnership with GHARP at last Sunday’s Dinner Presentation at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, there are a further twenty-six business houses that are keen to “come on board.”
According to Osborne while the private sector as yet has no means by which to measure the impact of HIV/AIDS on business “you can be sure that given the number of people who have died from the disease and those who are living with it, HIV/AIDS is bound to have impacted on the skills available to the private sector.” Osborne told Stabroek Business that two out of every three employed persons who have contracted HIV/AIDS “go to work every day, and sooner or later the impact of the disease on production and profits will manifest itself.”
Osborne disclosed that next year GHARP will be working with the private sector in a study that will seek to measure the economic impact of HIV/AIDS in the private sector. He declined to say when the study will be completed since “we have to first review such baseline data as is available.”
Asked to express a view on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the business community up to this time Osborne told Stabroek Business that “in a comparative sense it is not as bad as the situation in other countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.” He added, however, that the fact that we have no clear picture of the situation ought to give reason for concern.
Asked about the general attitude of the business community to joining the response to HIV/AIDS, Osborne said that GHARP is greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm with which the local business community has responded. “What we have been able to demonstrate to them is that quite apart from the broader duty as Guyanese institutions to join the fight against what is in fact a problem that threatens the entire population, it is also a matter of good business sense. There are countries in other parts of the world that are replete with examples of private sector entities that could end up being failed businesses simply because they refused to view HIV/AIDS as a problem that could one day affect their profitability.”
Dr. Osborne told Stabroek Business that the local mining sector had been grouped with other employment categories as being among the Most At Risk Populations. (MARPS). He estimated a 3.9% HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the mining sector.
According to Dr. Osborne some businessmen have now become seriously worried about the likely impact of HIV/AIDS on their businesses and, as a result, have now become more pro-active in seeking GHARP’s support to establish workplace programmes.
Asked about the extent of stigmatisation directed at HIV/AIDS victims at workplaces in Guyana Dr. Osborne told Stabroek Business that it was “very prevalent.” He said that GHARP is aware of eight cases in which HIV/AIDS victims employed in the private sector had been dismissed from their jobs after their employers discovered that they had the disease.
Stabroek Business understands that one of the leading security companies in Guyana requires applicants wishing to join the service to undergo HIV/AIDS tests and denies employment to those who test positive for the disease.