Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
DaimlerChrysler to Begin AIDS Treatment Program for South African HIV-Positive Workers, Dependents
DaimlerChrysler's South African subsidiary has established a health plan to provide free antiretroviral drugs to its employees and their families, in what may be the nation's "most far-reaching corporate program" to date, the Wall Street Journal reports. One of the largest companies to offer anti-HIV drugs to its employees in sub-Saharan Africa, DaimlerChrysler has crafted a plan that includes an annual $3,750 individual insurance benefit to cover the costs of HIV drugs and drug monitoring for its 4,445 workers and their 18,555 dependents in three South African cities. In addition, the firm is budgeting $1.87 million per year to cover "any shortfall" in this insurance. The German government has lent its support to the program, providing some funding and technical assistance, and the local trade union has approved the plan. Christoph Kopke, chief executive of DaimlerChrysler South Africa, said yesterday, "We believe this is something that can be done. We would like to be a role model." The only other "major international corporate player" to develop an employee AIDS treatment program is Ford Motor Co., but Ford's plan lacks the same level of funding or union participation as DaimlerChrysler's plan, according to the Journal. London-based mining giant Anglo American LPC has announced similar plans to aid its African workers, but has yet to implement anything more than several pilot projects. AIDS activists have called local and corporate response to AIDS in Africa thus far "poor," but new projects such as DaimlerChrysler's may signal change. Gold Fields Ltd., South Africa's second-largest gold mining firm, has been "quietly implementing" an AIDS program that is set to be unveiled next month, and Volkswagen AG is also reported to be considering a plan for its
HIV-positive workers. AIDS Law Project head Mark Heywood said, "Corporate South Africa is finally waking to the impact of AIDS and starting to realize that with drug prices coming down, it's more cost effective to manage HIV than to wait for workers to die or to dismiss them." Thirteen percent of South African workers are living with HIV, and that number is predicted to rise to 25% by the end of next year. Absenteeism, sickness payments and loss of skilled workers are anticipated to cost companies millions of dollars. Clifford Panter, coordinator of the DaimlerChrysler project, said, "AIDS treatment is now as much company policy as a commitment to innovative car design and safety" (Block, Wall Street Journal, 6/19).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.