11 August 2007

Mozambique: Short Lived Projects Hinder Fight Against HIV/Aids

Maputo — The executive director of the Mozambican Business Against AIDS Association (EcoSida), Cornelio Balane, complains that the limited time span of the projects for the prevention and mitigation of the impact of HIV/AIDS, coupled with the lack of sustainability and professionalism are the main factors behind the failure of most of the projects to check the spread of the disease in Mozambique.

Balane, who was speaking in Maputo on Friday during a lecture delivered to the media professionals, explained that some of the reasons behind the apparent lack of success to curb the spread of the disease in Mozambique is that "some of the projects in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention have a limited life span such as three, six months or just one year" which, in fact, is hindering an adequate addressing of the HIV/AIDS pandemics.

Issues concerning HIV/AIDS, said Balane, demand a continuous debate for a better integration of the projects and strategic plans in the fight against the disease on matters that, until today, have been neglected or poorly addressed.

"Among those issues we can identify socio-cultural values of each individual region or communities yet to be capitalized in the terms of institutional research", said Balanae, citing as an example male circumcision that should be taken advantage of in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Other problems raised by Balane include the concentration of most of the organizations involved in the fight of HIV/AIDS in the urban areas and the periphery, thereby leaving non- experienced organizations to operate in the rural and remote areas, weith shortage of infrastructures and qualified staff, huge costs of antiretrovirals and adequate diet for those who are HIV positive.

Another problem is the diversity of the socio-cultural habits of each region. On the occasion, Balane also complained that there are cases "where awareness campaigns, including lectures, are being carried out by illiterate people, who are unable to read or write and who often unable to understand the Portuguese language".

Therefore, Balane proposes a serious debate on the unabating incidence of HIV/AIDS in Mozambique, because the number of new infection seems to be growing. For Balane this is due to the failure in inducing a change of behaviour for the concomitant reduction of HIV/AIDS incidence, particularly in the 15 to 49 age group.

Turning to the negative impact of HIV/AIDS in the Mozambican economy, Balate believes that this could be reduced by a close partnership between the public and private sector.

Balane also complained that the current partnership between these sectors of the national economy is not yet fully active to address the fight against the disease in the workplace, a situation that could be disastrous to the country's economy.

"The workplace is the best location to spread messages on HIV/AIDS and carry out awareness campaigns because this is where workers spend most of their time, but it is still being neglected".

Prevalence rates reported on previous national surveys show a growing trend from the 11 per cent in 2000 to 12.7 per cent in 2001, 13.6 per cent in 2002 and 16.2 per cent in 2004. Based on this trend it's believed that the current prevalence rate could reach 20 per cent.

The HIV/AIDS impacts negatively in the growth and development of the country, as according to Ecosida. The effects of the pandemic on the infected worker, namely the loss of income and related benefits, discrimination, family pressure and the problem of the orphaned children have a direct impact on the companies.

The expansion of the virus in the work place debilitates business enterprises, giving rise to poor management, increase in absenteeism, loss of qualified staff and the loss of efficiency.

The company is often faced with additional costs involved in the adjustment and replacement of staff and, at the same time, that part of its capital is diverted to cover the expenses of those who are sick.

These extra costs are coupled with the loss of institutional memory of the company, increasing costs for the training of new staff, increasing labour conflicts and, finally, the disruption of the production cycle.

According to Cornelio Balane, this situation is also reported with varying levels in other African countries and the mitigation of these effects depends necessarily on the decision of the business sector in tackling the problem.

Available data in Mozambique point to the loss of about eight per cent of its workforce due to HIV/AIDS and the forecast points to 20 per cent by 2020.

Founded in August 2005 by a group of 23 business companies, Ecosida is an organization that includes 45 members that are receiving support for adoption and implementation of strategies for the mitigation of the impact of the pandemics in the workplace, including actions for training and peer awareness.

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