Business Day, 05 December 2002, Business accused of not making full disclosure on AIDS to shareholders

BIG business is not taking corporate governance principles seriously because it is not making a full disclosure of its exposure to AIDS to shareholders.

This is the view of Denis Cronson, HealthInSite MD, a Johnnic Publishing Group company which specialises in the implementation of AIDS programmes in the workplace.

Cronson's warning comes shortly after the announcement that from next year companies listed on the JSE Securities Exchange SA (JSE) will be obliged to report on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among their employees in their annual financial reports.

Guidelines for financial reporting on HIV/AIDS for listed companies are expected to be released by the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants and the JSE early next year.

Cronson emphasised that companies have no excuse for their inertia and lack of disclosure to shareholders, because programmes exist to quantify the likely effect of AIDS on company performance, and enable companies to take steps to minimise the risk.

Cronson also criticised analysts, who he said were not interrogating companies on their exposure to AIDS.

HealthInSite recently launched AIDS InSite, a comprehensive corporate AIDS management tool.

It includes modelling to determine a company's specific AIDS risk profile, and information to enable managers to take decisions on how best to manage the pandemic in the workplace.

The programme, which costs from R1500 a month, also offers subscribers access to education and training support materials using a variety of media.

Clients include companies in the financial services and manufacturing sectors, and discussions are underway with players in the mining industry.

Many companies are not aware of the hidden costs of AIDS, says Cronson, such as the loss of work days due to funeral attendance.

"A company which does not have well constructed compassionate leave or funeral attendance policies, stands to bear the cost of a substantial number of man years of production."

He also pointed out that many companies underestimate the costs of replacing experienced staff, due to a misplaced belief that AIDS does not affect educated or white-collar workers.