Mining Conglomerate Anglo American to Provide Antiretroviral Therapy to HIV-Positive Employees in Southern Africa
Mining company Anglo American today announced that it will provide antiretroviral therapy to its HIV-positive employees in Southern Africa who do not already qualify for treatment under medical aid schemes, Reuters reports. Through its subsidiaries AngloGold and DeBeers, the company employs about 90,000 people in the region (Gush, Reuters, 8/6). An estimated 23% of its workforce -- or 18,000 people -- is HIV-positive, company spokesperson Anne Dunn said. However, only an estimated 13% of HIV-positive employees are expected to participate in the new program during its first year (Agence France-Presse, 8/6). Treatment will be provided through the company's network of health care facilities and according to "well-defined" protocols that will include "rigorous" monitoring and evaluation, the company said in a statement. The timing of the rollout will depend upon each facility's capability, the company said (Anglo American release, 8/6). Anglo did not provide an overall cost estimate for the program, but Dunn said the company expects to spend about $165 per qualifying HIV-positive employee per year to provide antiretroviral therapy, counseling and treatment for side effects from the antiretroviral drugs.
A Joint Effort
The new program will operate in consultation with local and national governments and mining unions, according to Anglo. Last month, AngloGold signed an agreement with five labor unions in South Africa to develop strategies to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS on its workforce (Agence France-Presse, 8/6). Under the agreement, AngloGold promised to improve HIV/AIDS education efforts among its employees and encourage them to participate in the company's voluntary HIV testing and counseling programs and take advantage of the company's wellness centers if they test positive. The company also pledged to monitor HIV incidence rates at its mines (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29). Anglo American said it will also work with the local governments and unions, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to expand the new treatment initiative beyond the workplace to include dependents of employees and retired employees who do not belong to medical insurance plans that include coverage for antiretroviral therapy (Anglo American release, 8/6). AngloGold estimated that HIV/AIDS is costing its South African mining operations between $4 and $6 per ounce of gold produced. The company estimated that the cost could rise to $9 per ounce if no measures are taken to help its workforce. Anglo said that the new program will lower costs by reducing absenteeism and reducing medical expenses and pension benefits in the long run (Reuters, 8/6).