The impact of AIDS on government service delivery: the case of the Zambia Wildlife Authority
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BACKGROUND: The loss of working-aged adults to HIV/AIDS has been shown to increase the costs of labor to the private sector in Africa. There is little corresponding evidence for the public sector. This study evaluated the impact of AIDS on the capacity of a government agency, the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), to patrol Zambia’s national parks. METHODS: Data were collected from ZAWA on workforce characteristics, recent mortality, costs, and the number of days spent on patrol between 2003 and 2005 by a sample of 76 current patrol officers (reference subjects) and 11 patrol officers who died of AIDS or suspected AIDS (index subjects). An estimate was made of the impact of AIDS on service delivery capacity and labor costs and the potential net benefits of providing treatment. RESULTS: Reference subjects spent an average of 197.4 days on patrol per year. After adjusting for age, years of service, and worksite, index subjects spent 62.8 days on patrol in their last year of service (68% decrease, p<0.0001), 96.8 days on patrol in their second to last year of service (51% decrease, p<0.0001), and 123.7 days on patrol in their third to last year of service (37% decrease, p<0.0001). For each employee who died, ZAWA lost an additional 111 person-days for management, funeral attendance, vacancy, and recruitment and training of a replacement, resulting in a total productivity loss per death of 2.0 person-years. Each AIDS-related death also imposed budgetary costs for care, benefits, recruitment, and training equivalent to 3.3 years’ annual compensation. In 2005, AIDS reduced service delivery capacity by 6.2% and increased labor costs by 9.7%. If antiretroviral therapy could be provided for $500/patient/year, net savings to ZAWA would approach $285,000/year. CONCLUSION: AIDS is constraining ZAWA’s ability to protect Zambia’s wildlife and parks. Impacts on this government agency are substantially larger than have been observed in the private sector. Provision of ART would result in net budgetary savings to ZAWA and greatly increase its service delivery capacity.
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