Employees' perceptions of the Aid-for-AIDS disease-management programme, South Africa
It is estimated that 18–20% of South Africa's more than 5 million HIV-positive individuals are formally employed. Disease management programmes for these employees vary in scope and sophistication, with services provided by the employer, or third-party specialist disease managers, or through medical aid schemes. This study surveyed 215 HIV-positive employees in two organisations contracted to the Aid for AIDS (AfA) disease management programme through their in-house medical aid schemes. The two organisations differed in their overall approach to HIV and AIDS: one mainly relies on on-site access to voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and AfA's management of registered HIV-positive employees, while the other has invested in and actively developed a comprehensive programme that also extends to families and the community as well as links employees to the AfA programme. Responses received from 28 of the 215 employees surveyed indicate that fear of disclosure of one's HIV status and of stigmatisation are reasons for late registration with the AfA programme or non-utilisation of other available support programmes. Respondents mentioned that confidence in the employer's ability to maintain confidentiality was also an issue. Respondents' important suggestions for change included: a) on-site educational and awareness programmes for management personnel and staff in order to reduce HIV discrimination and stigmatisation; b) information directed at HIV-positive employees publicising the benefits and effectiveness of medical treatment; c) support groups for HIV-positive employees; and d) management personnel to engage with HIV-infected employees who are willing to take an active role in staff education and the development of workplace policies and programmes.
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