South Africa. HIV and AIDS workplace programmes have been implemented for between 10 to 20 years without any auditable and certifiable standards. Monitoring and evaluation of the implemented HIV programme has therefore been difficult.
HIV and AIDS interventions in the workplace were also seen to be a nice to have, but not essential and short educational interventions were seen as effective methodologies to get rid of the problems.
Unfortunately the problem did not go away and in fact grew to alarming epidemic proportions. Companies with mature HIV programmes have recognized the need to assess their programme against a benchmark.
No longer do organisations in the beginning stages of programme implementation need to re-invent the wheel. They can now immediately start to implement a programme that can be benchmarked against best practice.
In a series of articles Linzi Smith, managing director of a South African HIV consultancy Education, Training and Counselling (ETC) will introduce the new National Standard: SANS 16001:2007.
When organisations first started managing HIV in the workplace, it was thought that short interventions would solve the problem and it would go away. As the epidemic intensified, it became increasingly evident that short infrequent interventions would not adequately manage the risk that HIV presents to sustainable business, nor would ad hoc un-researched interventions.
Organisations managed HIV related issues as and when they became a problem.
Since 2000, International organisations have recognised the need to study processes that effectively reduce new infections and successful treatment, care and support programmes and produced guidelines for companies.
More and more organisations are setting targets and objectives, but are disappointed in the outcomes, especially in the low uptake of HIV counselling and testing and an even lower registration on HIV disease management programmes (treatment of opportunistic infections, ARV’s and relevant blood tests).
Many organisations may now question their corporate commitments to such programmes and/or seek more effective ways to measure the allocation of their resources. For them, the following points make the implementation of an HIV workplace standard attractive:
1. Improvement of the quality and suitability of HIV related processes and services for their intended purposes. The SANS 16001:2007 was developed to improve the processes and services within the field of the management of HIV in the workplace.
2. Increased effectiveness of these processes will result in the reduction of new HIV infections coming in to the workplace, and
3. The effective management of those already infected with HIV thus reducing the risk that HIV poses to production and sustainable business.
4. Preventing barriers to trade. Many large multinationals are requesting that their down line supply chain and service providers show evidence of their HIV policy and the implementation thereof.
5. To provide and maintain domestic and foreign confidence in South African goods and services. Both consumers and investors accept services and products when they can be measured by certain quality standards. HIV related business risk is lowered when managed within a quality management system framework, thus enhancing national and global competitiveness.
Foreign investors are nervous of the impacts that HIV may have on production.
Although there are many good guidelines for workplace HIV and AIDS programmes, the connection between the guidelines and implemented programmes is tenuous at best and no legislation forces organisations to comply with even minimum standards.
The AMS 16001 and SANS 16001 are the only standards on the list of HIV workplace guidelines. Even though the Global Business Coalition BPAS (Best Practice AIDS Standard) document calls itself a standard, it is not a standard in terms of the ISO group of standards.
Usually when a new standard project is proposed, an existing international or regional standard can be adopted or a South African standard containing at least some different requirements can be developed. The final decision regarding which route to follow is taken by the responsible committee.
The only other auditable standard that has been developed regarding the services and processes within an HIV workplace management system is the AMS 16001:2003, which was developed jointly by NOSA (National Occupational Safety Association) and Debswana (a mining partnership between the Government of the Republic of Botswana and De Beers Centenary AG).
The AMS 16001:2003 had two major shortcomings:
1. It was oriented specifically to the mining sector, and
2. It focused on the risk of getting infected with HIV within the workplace.
It is well known that the majority of infections occur outside of the workplace, but the impacts on the workplace after infection are well known and documented.
The SABS Standards Approval Committee approved the development of a national HIV workplace standard and the development process began on 20th July 2006 with wide representation from Government, Private Sector, Higher Education and Research institutions. All present agreed that the development of a South African National Standard was a good idea and that the AMS 16001 would be used as a starting point.
A working draft was prepared and submitted to the working group. The final draft was sent out to the working group for comment and voting. The draft was then available on the SABS website for public comment.
The Standard was then eventually accepted, ratified and launched on the 18th of July 2007. The Standard is now available for purchase from the SABS.
In the next article, Linzi Smith will take a closer look at what you will find inside the SANS 16001:2007 standard document.