C.8.Best practices on HIV/AIDS
Electricity supply corporation of Malawi Isaac Chimwala
ESCOM Limited having experienced rising costs in medical and funeral expenses with the majority of junior staff exhausting their full annual medical entitlement before year end, Executive Management directed that programmes to mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS be implemented having established that most of these illnesses are HIV/AIDS related.
Prior to the company’s proactiveness on HIV/AIDS there was increased absenteeism due to sickness and funeral attendance. Consequently this led to low productivity. To that effect, ESCOM through its Welfare Services section set up structures that would work to address the situation. As such, awareness programmes targeting staff and their families have so far been carried out. First to undergo such programmes was Executive Management itself and Senior Managers followed by middle managers and all other employees. At the moment, some employees have been trained as Peer Educators to assist in the dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS as well as carry out all other activities related to HIV/AIDS programmes.
Several initiatives have been done including:
HIV preventive measures through special talks to all patients who visit ESCOM clinics. These talks are done by our own nurses, clinics and doctors.
Treatment of opportunistic infections at ESCOM clinics
Free distribution of condoms
Provision of free ARV’s to employees and their families
Removal of stigma and discrimination among employees
As part of corporate responsibility, ESCOM assists in the dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS through messages printed on electricity bills. These messages reach out to over 130 000 people who are ESCOM’s customers.
Programmes instituted to address HIV/AIDS issues have been effective. Landmarks along the way include:
Formulation of HIV/AIDS policy
Formation of steering committee to run activities on HIV/AIDS at workplace in ESCOM
Intensive promotion of HIV/AIDS awareness which has assisted to remove stigma and discrimination among employees.
Distribution of free ARV’s to employees and their families
ESCOM is in the process of establishing its own VCT centres to be patronised by employees and their families as well as the surrounding communities in Karonga, Nkula, Kapichira, Tedzani, Nkhotakota and Mzuzu. Currently programmes to encourage abstinence and faithfulness to one partner and behaviour change have been intensified.