Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Anglo American Will Not Provide Majority of South African Workers With Antiretroviral Drugs
Anglo American, a London-based natural resources conglomerate that had said it would supply its HIV-positive South African workforce with antiretroviral medications, announced Monday that it cannot afford to give the drugs to all of its HIV-positive workers and their spouses as promised, the Financial Times reports (Firn/Lamont, Financial Times, 10/9). The plan, which company officials estimated would cost $4.5 million in the first year alone, was approved "in principle" last November by the Anglo board. If implemented, the plan would have made Anglo -- which owns a 53% stake in the world's largest gold mining company, AngloGold Ltd., and a 32% stake in diamond giant De Beers -- the largest company in sub-Saharan Africa to provide antiretroviral drugs to its employees (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/7). Anglo American's Vice President for Medical Operations Brian Brink said that the company would provide its 14,000 senior staff members with the drugs as part of their medical insurance packages, but said that extending that coverage to all employees would be too expensive. "The obstacles to providing therapy are huge. The more I look at it, it's not possible," he said, adding that although treating HIV-positive workers could improve productivity by cutting down on absenteeism, the company feels the "cost will be greater than the saving." Anglo American employs 160,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in South Africa, where about 21% of its workforce is thought to have HIV. Brink added that the price of the medicines was too high, workers' adherence to the drug regimens was "uncertain" and the "extent of the company's obligation" to treat employees and their dependents was "too daunting." Anglo American plans to launch a pilot project for senior staff in cooperation with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by the end of the year, but said that it would have to receive outside funding from donors to extend the program (Financial Times, 10/9).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.