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Corporate social responsibility to combat HIV in the workforce
Organisations operating in countries with a high HIV prevalence are increasingly making efforts to tackle the epidemic and develop strategies to reduce workers risk of HIV. Ill health and loss of life are major negative cost of the epidemic; however it also has the effect of crippling economies, as a significant proportion of the work force is affected. Industries such as oil and gas have realised that addressing HIV makes business sense, as well as ensuring the well-being of thousands of people.
The Grampian area in Scotland, a centre for the oil and gas industry, has recently observed an increase in new HIV infections. This increase has been attributed to oil and gas workers returning home from working abroad having become infected with HIV. Due to the migratory nature of this work, employees are often deployed overseas to remote locations and for extended periods of time to regions with high HIV prevalences, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe. Increased alcohol consumption and engaging in unprotected sex whilst working overseas, compiled with a general lack of HIV and AIDS awareness have been highlighted as key factors for this increase in Grampia. As such, the oil and gas industry in Grampia is working with local health authorities to develop HIV strategies, aiming to make employees more aware of the risks when working abroad and to increase testing for HIV.
A number of studies show that direct business action in preventing and treating HIV and AIDS ensures economic benefits for the company whilst also protecting their greatest resource, their employees. More companies are developing their own HIV programmes, often including free and confidential testing, and the provision of treatment for any employees living with HIV and their dependents. Industries working in regions with a high HIV prevalence need to prioritise these services and expand workers knowledge of HIV and AIDS. This issue stresses the need to strengthen partnerships between corporations and health services to protect workers at a high risk of HIV and the general communities that they operate in.