Employers underestimate HIV, TB epidemic risks

Oil and gas employers are not aware of the full extent of the risks of HIV /AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria to productivity and profitability.

A study by management consultants Booz and the Global Business Coalition on the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, finds that oil, gas and petrochemicals explorers, producers and contractors should improve their understanding of risks, and social health management.

Many major oil and gas companies work in less developed regions, like West Africa, where HIV, TB and malaria are highly problematic health issues that can pose a strong risk to worker productivity.

Oil and gas activity is likely to increase in many of these regions over the next decade. The industry employs tens of thousands of young, male migrant laborers who work on a temporary contract basis at remote project sites with lack of adequate housing, health care and transport, conditions that contribute to the transmission of these diseases.

Seventy-five percent of those infected with HIV /AIDS are in Sub-Saharan Africa, a key area of industry operation, and the virus is a growing problem in other major countries of industry operation such as Russia and China.

The HIV epidemic has helped contribute to the resurgence of TB, the leading cause of death in HIV positive individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria outbreaks have been known to derail progress on large scale projects.

“HIV /AIDS, TB and malaria pose a clear and present risk to the energy industry supply chain, yet many companies do not fully appreciate the nature or extent of this looming challenge,” said Shuma Panse, GBC senior manager for membership and advisory services, and an author of the study.

“There are easy and affordable ways to protect workers and company productivity. The first step is understanding the risk. They could make an effective worker HIV/AIDS policy a contractual requirement of doing business.”

Among the report’s key findings, health issues lagged behind safety as the top priority for oil companies and their contractors.

Oil and gas companies base their engagement on health, safety and the environment on their perception of risk.

Safety issues are perceived to have the greatest risk, the perception of HIV, TB and malaria risk for companies with significant operations in disease-endemic regions is usually not in line with actual prevalence and incidence rates.

PHOTO; HIV /AIDS and TB often conspire in epidemic spread, and onset of symptoms.

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