Employee responses to HIV/AIDS at Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS)
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is a global crisis which has posed a great threat to the world of work. Out of the more than 40 million people who are currently infected, about 26 million are within the most productive age bracket i.e. 15 to 49 years. Due to its fatal nature preceded by prolonged illness, HIV/AIDS is imposing huge costs on organizations in terms of additional labour costs (i.e. medical and funeral expenses, loss in productivity, absenteeism due to illness, and training of new employees). Due to its perceived mode of transmission, those infected with HIV/AIDS face discrimination and stigmatization hence negating initiatives to manage the disease. Assessing employees' responses to HIV/AIDS gives an organization a basis for developing appropriate workplace HIV/AIDS programmes with a view to achieving and sustaining supportive attitudes/behaviour among employees. This study was undertaken to determine responses of KEPHIS employees to HIV/AIDS and factors influencing these responses. The study revealed that the level of HIV/AIDS awareness of KEPHIS employees was high. However, contradictory responses pointed to the fact that employees were not too clear on some facts on HIV/AIDS hence making them vulnerable to risky sexual behaviours. In addition, there existed a minority who held discriminative attitudes towards infected persons. HIV/AIDS trainings at the workplace were evidently not frequent and employer's position in relation to HIV/AIDS was not clear to respondents. Positive factors influencing employee responses to HIV/AIDS included among others management and government support. Discrimination by some colleagues, lack of staff HIV/AIDS medical cover, staff living working away from families and negative influence of some media programmes/cultural practices were identified as some of the factors which need to be addressed. Based on the above results, it is recommended that KEPHIS adopts Behaviour Change Communication (BCC) in order to develop appropriate programmes to achieve desired behaviour change objectives in targeted workplace groups. Other recommendations include developing a HIV/AIDS workplace policy, involvement of stakeholders in KEPHIS' HIV/ AIDS programmes and employing persons living with HIV/AIDS to enhance confidence of job security and positive living in infected employees.