HIV/AIDS in the Barbados workplace – one company’s dilemma On 20 June 2004, George Hope, the General Manager of Caron Foods, a major manufacturing company in Barbados, faced the challenge of having to deal with the death of one of his employees - Maxine Cave - who had died of AIDS. Maxine was a production worker in the food plant and had been with the company for five years. She was a dedicated employee who had a positive work attitude. She rarely missed a day from work, was always on time, and got along well with her fellow employees. In fact, it was rumoured that she had had intimate relationships with at least seven men in the Production Department. George Hope was informed about the cause of death by a fellow employee in the Production Department who lived in Maxine’s neighbourhood. He, along with other staff, had heard rumours and had noticed that she had become quite thin. Even though she had been absent from work for long periods during the past year, they had never imagined the seriousness of the illness – which she had chosen not to disclose to anyone in the organisation. Rather than face the stigma and discrimination associated with this illness, she had chosen to resign. In the absence of any policy or procedure, George Hope now had to determine how he was going to deal with the rumours and innuendo surrounding the AIDS death of one of his employees, as well as the impact that this news could have on his other employees and on the sustainability of his organisation. “My management training never prepared me for dealing with fear and death in the organisation,” he mused. HIV/AIDS in Barbados Barbados is the most easterly in the chain of islands in the Caribbean, and is washed by the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern side and by the Caribbean Sea on the west. The island depends
This case was written by Sue Lynch with supervision from Dr Richard Norman from Victoria University of Wellington at the Caribbean Case Course in Barbados, July 2004. It has been prepared as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a managerial situation. The names of the company and of the individuals concerned have been changed to protect the privacy of all. © 2004 Australia and New Zealand School of Government and the Centre for Management Development, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados Version 17-05-05. Published by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, www.casestudies.anzsog.edu.au. Further reproduction prohibited without express permission.
heavily on tourism, which is its main industry, with sugar, offshore financial services and manufacturing as the other supporting industries. In 2002, the total population of Barbados was 269,000 persons. The first AIDS case in Barbados was reported in 1984. From then to the end of September 2002, cumulatively, 2,575 HIV cases and 1,531 AIDS cases were reported to the National Surveillance Unit, with a fatality rate of 76 percent. During 2001, there were 212 new HIV cases reported (77 per 100,000 people) as well as 117 AIDS cases (43 per 100,000 population) and 95 AIDS deaths. It is estimated that 1.75 percent of the Barbados population is living with HIV/AIDS, and that the majority (75 percent) of HIV infections are transmitted through sexual relations between men and women. 1 Despite these figures, and the uncontrollable spread of this deadly disease, corporate Barbados’ response has been “lukewarm” at best. Few companies have HIV/AIDS policies in place, and even where they exist, dealing with the epidemic has not gone much further than that. Trade unions have been somewhat silent on the issue of HIV/AIDS as well, although they have initiated some awareness seminars. The education of employees in the public and private sectors has been left primarily to individual companies or ministries to initiate. The public sector has taken the lead with...