By: Elvira Goetz, ILO
Analyses of public-private sector partnerships on HIV often overlook the important financial and in-kind contributions companies make in prevention and care for their own workers. Well-targeted programs can contribute significantly to reducing HIV transmission and increase access to care and treatment services for large segments of the community.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed a survey to better quantify the actual contribution of the private sector to HIV programs, specifically with regard to in-kind contributions which are not always well-documented. Management time for program coordination, worker time for carrying out prevention activities, conference rooms and facilities made available for trainings, communication materials developed and printed at the employers’ expense are often not recognized as part of the resources mobilized for the HIV response. The ILO has made an effort to calculate these inputs to provide a clearer picture of the private sector contribution to prevention, care and support for workers, their family members and the communities surrounding the enterprises.
Preliminary findings of surveys conducted with a sample of 10 ILO partner enterprises in China demonstrate that over a period of three years (2007-2009), the total amount of resources leveraged from the private sector in the form of financial and in-kind contributions to their workplace program reached over US$2.2 million.
The 10 Chinese enterprises were partnering with the ILO SHARE Programme (Strategic HIV/AIDS Responses in Enterprises) which worked with about 700 enterprises in 24 countries and to help them to:
- appoint and support an HIV/AIDS focal point
- set up a HIV/AIDS workplace committee,
- develop and implement an HIV/AIDS, policy and program, and
- allow peer educators to conduct education sessions during working hours.
Examples of corporate contributions to HIV programs
The management team of the 10,000 employees in the shoe factory in Yucheng, which commenced activities with the technical assistance of the ILO SHARE project in China, chose to prioritize HIV training and to integrate it into the orientation program for newly recruited employees. The factory also facilitated the training of more than 60 peer educators during working hours. At the start of the program, according to a sample baseline survey undertaken, as little as 7% of the staff members knew about HIV prevention measures. Lack of knowledge was making workers’ vulnerable to HIV. The newly trained peer educators were able to spread the message at night to men and women workers in the factory’s dormitories. After the implementation of a peer education program, adequate knowledge levels increased to 85%.
In Sri Lanka, the rubber glove manufacturer Dipped Product Limited was reluctant to embark on HIV/AIDS activities. However, the company soon realized after a few months of collaborating with the ILO SHARE project that the investment was beneficial, and the company decided to engage the surrounding communities for a greater impact. The company organized a cross-country run to raise awareness in the neighborhood and reached out to students in schools. “It is important for young people to be able to identify the factors of risk when it comes to HIV,” comments Mr. Silva, a trainer and HIV committee member at Dipped Product Limited. The high turnover of workers was a challenge for the Operations Director to sustain the HIV program. The time invested in training peer educators that might leave the enterprises is now seen positively and contributes to spreading information on HIV to the communities.
Moreover, Dipped Product Limited provided condoms free of charge to its staff. The enabling environment created in the workplace and the skills of the peer educators were incentives for workers to ask for condoms, as strong cultural taboos may have prevented them from doing so in their communities. The company also worked at facilitating access to HIV services. Peer educators were granted permission to accompany fellow workers to the clinic to undertake voluntary counseling and testing during their shift. In the process, confidentiality of the medical information was ensured.
These are some examples of the different ways in which the private sector contributes towards the implementation of HIV/AIDS workplace programs for their employees, their families and members of the surrounding committees. The real cost of these programs to companies (in financial terms) has not been completely explored. It is worth mentioning the contribution of the workers and their organizations in this process. Trade union representatives play a crucial role in the development of workplace policies that set the framework for the implementation of HIV activities in enterprises. In addition to the time dedicated to HIV activities during working hours, workers use the knowledge and skills acquired through training to also provide HIV education outside the workplace on a voluntary basis. Workers also invest their personal time to prepare activities for special events, such as World AIDS Day, which often requires time in addition to the normal working hours.
The ILO is currently collecting additional quantitative and qualitative information on similar public-private-partnerships implemented in other SHARE project countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Results of the data collection (which would highlight the financial and in-kind contributions of enterprises) will be included in the forthcoming Third Report “Saving lives, Protecting jobs” to be published by the ILO SHARE program this spring.
For more information, please contact Elvira Goetz, Resource Mobilization Section, Department of Partnerships and Development Cooperation, International Labour Organisation (ILO).