This study examines commercial farmers’ perceptions of and management responses to the HIV epidemic, among a sample in KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. The analysis is based on responses to a postal survey of commercial farmers belonging to KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu), in April–May 2007. The findings show that, on average, the Kwanalu members were highly concerned about the impacts of HIV and AIDS on their businesses. The majority of respondents perceived HIV and AIDS as negatively affecting the current and future profitability of their farming enterprise, increasing the rates of workers’ absenteeism and staff turnover, and reducing workers’ productivity. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) of the data shows that the farm managers’ HIV/AIDS-management responses varied by farm size and enterprise type, but included paying higher-than-average wages to attract and retain healthy and productive workers, multi-skilling staff to provide back-up, and investing in mechanisation to defer the costs of HIV and AIDS. The respondents tended to believe that effective HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes require an integrated approach that is shared by employees, employers and government. Many commercial farm employers already play an important but economical role in HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment through encouraging voluntary HIV testing and providing workers with information and transportation to clinics. Policymakers should take this into consideration when formulating policies in response to the HIV epidemic.
Keywords: agribusiness, agricultural workers, economic impact, health needs, prevention and control, programme planning, South Africa, survey
African Journal of AIDS Research 2009, 8(2): 147–156