Health Economics: HIV/AIDS And Other Consumers Of International Aid

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By Elton Plaatjes


VENTURES AFRICA – To some extent I may have a warped mind. However, thinking about the solutions that Africa needs has become second nature of late. Some of my recent research on the disability sector in South Africa has uncovered a few critical and fairly careless attitudes towards people with disabilities. Forgive me if I am prejudice (ever so slightly), but I am a highly functional person with Epilepsy. From this we can deduce that provided certain equilibrium in life, people with disabilities can add long-term value to an economy by finding means to actively filter such “people” into the economic mainstream.


Let me share some facts with you:


It is a known fact that HIV and AIDS receives large portions of international aid. According to Avert, an HIV/AIDS charity ( Sub-Saharan Africa is more heavily affected by HIV and AIDS than any other region of the world. An estimated 24.5 million people are living with HIV in the region – around two thirds of the global total.In 2010 around 1.2 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.9 million people became infected with HIV. Since the beginning of the epidemic 14.8 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.


Let’s Ponder here:


–       In addition, there are approximately 40+ million people globally living with the HIV virus.


–       According to Francis Kimani Njnang’iru, program manager, Kenya HIV/AIDS Business Council, in his address The Blueprint for Business Action against HIV/AIDS to the Pan African Health Congress 2007 on September 18, the cumulative loss of the workforce in sub-Saharan Africa by 2005 was about 25 million. Without intervention, it will approach 74 million by 2015.


The Gates Foundation has generously provided millions of dollars over the years to fighting HIV/AIDS or related TB throughout Africa. Whether this has been effective or not is no necessarily my concern. However we need to ask ourselves what is the best case scenario to offset the cost of HIV/AIDS and related treatments?


Case history:

In a company with 1907 employees comprising 2 managers, 5 supervisors, 200 skilled workers, and 1700 unskilled workers and with an overall HIV-positive rate of 25%, on an annual wage bill of R7.5 million, HIV-related costs will amount to about R600000.
If one plots the progress of the pandemic over 15 years, if no program is instituted, 551 workers will be lost to HIV/AIDS over the period. If a preventative program is instituted, the death toll will be 407 and if a fully comprehensive program is applied, 198 workers will die.
Even in the best-case scenario, the impact on the workforce will be severe, and still constitute a significant cost to the bottom line –


The Alternative case I would like to present:

There are over one (1) billion people with some form of disability, globally... 785 people with disabilities are within working age 15 – 59. – ILO.


There are international conventions for the economic mainstreaming of people into the workplace based on case study research. This research has some pointed results that serve as a feeder for economic development strategies and the way in which aid organizations need to start thinking.


Let me share the brief findings of a business case by the International Labour Organisation (ILO):

By employing people with disabilities;

-       Productivity increased


-       Work attendance rates improved


-       Excellent safety records


-       Exemplary job retention rates


-       Created a market for disability sector


-       Improved the public image of the company


These are all aspects every single company would like to realize. More importantly, improving the economic mainstreaming of people with disabilities has a greater chance of improving economic activity in local economies that can lead to increased local government capital injection into treating HIV/AIDS.


By creating projects for disabled people, agriculture can provide local produce to local government programmes that buy from projects to feed HIV infected people. This is just one more than feasible prospect!


My aim is not to take away aid, but rather to re-channel the way in which we “feed” aid programmes. My question is then, “Are we doing the right things as apposed to doing the right things, the right way”? I leave it to you to decide. What is the best way international aid can assist the African continent?





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