Kenya’s losses in earnings due to illness and death of thousands of HIV-infected workers will decline substantially from Sh166 billion in 2005 to nearly Sh31 billion by 2020, due to the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy that keeps people alive for longer and allows them to be active participants in the labour force.
This is according to a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) titled The Impact of HIV and AIDS on the World of Work: Global Estimates.
Globally, lost earnings attributable to HIV/Aids will decline from a peak of nearly Sh1.7 trillion in 2005 to Sh720 billion in 2020.
In 2005, 918,977 Kenyans were HIV-positive, while currently, 1.5 million Kenyans are HIV-positive, with 77,647 new infections recorded in 2015 and 897,644 people on anti-retroviral treatment.
The ILO report shows that even if antiretroviral therapy (ART) is scaled up as projected, the number of HIV-positive workers in the labour force will hit 29.9 million globally in 2020, while half a million workers will die, and the deaths will be almost entirely avoidable.
However, there is glimmer of hope as workers’ deaths attributed to HIV/Aids are projected to fall to 425,000 worldwide in 2020, from a peak of 1.3 million in 2005 due to access to ART.
The ILO has thus called for an “urgent effort” to improve treatment, step up testing and ensure healthier and more productive workplaces as HIV/Aids continues to take an economic and social toll on workers around the world especially in men who have higher labour force participation rates.
BURDEN OF CARE
The report also looks at the “hidden costs” or the burden of care or additional chores for members of households that have to care for a HIV-positive patient. It predicts that in 2020, 140,000 children will carry the “child-labour level chore burden” while an additional full-time equivalent of 50,000 workers will perform unpaid care work.
If other household members are called upon to provide care for a HIV-positive patient, someone must fill in to clean, cook, offer child care and other tasks. Children are often called upon to supply this missing household labour.
The findings prepared in collaboration with UNAIDS estimate that as many as 84,000 children in Aids-affected households will face diminished educational opportunities by 2020.
The report comes just before the Ministry of Health launches a nationwide survey to assess how many people are currently infected with HIV, new infections and those on treatment.
The survey dubbed the Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (KENPHIA) will involve 36,000 randomly selected individuals across the 47 counties, with a view of providing data that will inform programmes and resources for the people most in need.
Blood samples will be collected to determine HIV status and to screen for syphilis and hepatitis B.
The nutritional status of pregnant women and children will also be assessed.
KENPHIA is part of the Population-based HIV Impact Assessment Project, a five-year, multi-country household initiative that will collect information related to HIV in 15 African countries.
The survey has been completed in eight countries: Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda and Namibia and data collection is currently ongoing in three countries: Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire and Ethiopia.