Despite significant progress being made over the past 15 years, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the associated tuberculosis (TB) epidemic continue to have a profound impact on workers i South Africa, according to the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH).

"Of the 36.9 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) in 2014, the vast majority were of working age and over 60 per cent were workforce participants. Several reports have indicated that gender inequalities remain among the most important drivers of the epidemic, and are linked to gender-related economic disparities," the institute reported Wednesday.

The institute said the workplace could contribute significantly to attaining the proposed 90-90-90 treatment target for 2020, which means that 90 per cent of PLHIV should know their status, 90 per cdnt of people who know they are HIV-positive should be accessing anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment and 90 per cent of people on treatment should have suppressed viral loads.

The NIOH noted that technological advances had contributed to ongoing changes in the world of work in the 21st century. "This presents us with progress but also with new Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) risks related to new technologies, such as exposure to nanoparticles," it said.

"At the same time, many countries, including our own, are still trying to cope with epidemics of largely preventable work-related diseases, such as silicosis, tuberculosis and asbestos related diseases, that have plagued workers since before the industrial revolution."

The NIOH is a public health institute with a history of OEHS innovation, research, teaching and training, as well as service delivery. This year, the NIOH celebrates 60 years of dedicated engagement in occupational and environmental health and safety OEHS.