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Top companies to tackle HIV/Aids

Ngoni Chanakira

THE spread and impact of HIV/Aids at the workplace and in the business community at large has forced prominent business tycoons to form a business council chaired by Stan

dard Chartered boss Washington Matsaira.

Known as the Zimbabwe Business Council on Aids the council was launched on Tuesday in Harare.

Its mission is to try and prevent, control, mitigate and stop the spread and impact of HIV/Aids at the workplace and in the community at large.

Matsaira said the HIV/Aids virus affects everyone, every individual, family, social institution, organisation and indeed every business.

He said the pandemic, which is claiming more than 3 000 individuals weekly, poses one of the greatest challenges to business development in Africa.

“The epidemic claims some of the best business leaders, managers and a great number of workers at all levels of the business system,” Matsaira said.

“HIV-related absenteeism, loss of productivity and the cost of replacing workers threatens the survival of a number of businesses and sectors in the increasingly competitive market we find ourselves in. HIV/Aids does not only affect workers. By claiming a large part of the urban population and by impoverishing families and communities it also affects the market base of our businesses in Zimbabwe.”

He said the private sector was one of the key stakeholders in the fight against HIV/Aids, hence the formation of the Zimbabwe Business Council on Aids.

Some of the top companies in Zimbabwe have come together to launch this initiative.

The inaugural membership comprises Matsaira (chairman), and the chief executive officers of Unilever (Malcolm Hughes), the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe Ltd (Sylvester Nguni), Zimplats (Roy Pitchford), Zimbabwe Sugar Refineries (Patison Sithole), Kingdom Financial Holdings (Lysias Sibanda), Delta Corporation (Joe Mutizwa), Anglo American Corporation (Godfrey Gomwe), Dairibord Zimbabwe (Anthony Mandiwanza), OK Zimbabwe (Willard Zireva), Intermarket Holdings (Nicholas Vingirai), and Old Mutual’s Graham Hollick.

The council also has as members the managing directors of the British American Tobacco (Kennedy Mandevhani), Colgate Zimbabwe Ltd (Davis Kanyama), and Securico Security Services (Divine Ndhlukula).

Matsaira said the ZBCA was however open to all businesses to join.

“All companies have a responsibility as good corporate citizens of Zimbabwe to contribute to the fight against this dreadful disease,” Matsaira said.

A survey by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare showed that between the ages of 25 and 29, 25% of men and 35% of women were affected, while between the ages of 20 and 24, 9% of the men and 26% of the women were infected by HIV/Aids. Between the ages of 15 and 19, 2% of the men and 11% of the women were infected.

The United Nations Population Division says in the Africa regional group Botswana has the highest HIV/Aids cases, closely followed by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda.

Matsaira said it was clear that no one sector alone could make a significant inroad in the fight against the epidemic. “A true partnership involving the government, the private sector and the community is essential to face the problem,” he said.

“The business community is realising that its very survival depends on how effectively it joins forces with other partners to face the problem.”

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