In an effort to encourage partners to adjust to HIV in the workplace, some donors are focusing on an HIV policy as the essential and only response. An HIV policy, however, may not always be appropriate for all CSOs. Many small or community-based CSOs do not operate on the basis of written policy. They may have their own informal coping mechanisms which may be an effective way to address HIV in the workplace. To better support CSOs develop resistance to HIV and AIDS, we need to know more about these informal responses.

Informal responses are largely invisible to outsiders. There is almost nothing written about informal workplace responses. INTRAC commissioned three short research studies in Nigeria, Kenya and Malawi to find out how CSOs without HIV policies were responding to HIV in the workplace. The research reveals that many CSOs are actively responding to the threat, without having a formal policy. Simply using the existence of a formal HIV policy may therefore not be a good indicator of CSO’s responses. There are some good reasons for CSOs not to formalise their response into policy. In some cases an inappropriate organisational policy may even undermine individuals taking responsibility themselves for HIV and AIDS. This is an important finding for well-intentioned donors who have set themselves a specific target of ‘percentage of partners with HIV policies’.

The research concludes that donors need to focus on the bigger question of how to help CSOs become resilient to HIV, not reduce this simply to having a written policy. Donors should also look for, accept and value the informal efforts. This does not mean the emphasis on formal policy response is misplaced – merely that it needs to be complemented by recognising the role of informal responses too.

Download Praxis Note 46 and three case studies below.


Praxis Note 46. Who Needs an HIV Policy? Informal workplace responses to HIV in Nigerian, Kenyan and Malawian CSOs

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