Some Southern African Businesses Paying for Antiretroviral Drug Treatment for Employees
Because production losses as a result of HIV/AIDS "are noticeable and deepening," some Southern African companies are paying for antiretroviral drugs for their employees, the Los Angeles Times reports. Absenteeism has risen along with recruitment and training costs, as more and more workers become sick and die from AIDS-related illnesses. Some studies have shown that companies are spending six to 10 times more money on HIV-positive employees than they spend on healthy employees. To combat the economic toll of HIV/AIDS, companies -- such as Debswana Diamond Co. in Botswana -- have begun to pay for most of the cost of their employees' antiretroviral drugs. Dr. Banu Khan, head of Botswana's AIDS programs, called Debswana, which is jointly owned by the Botswana government and DeBeers, a "model for our country." However, corporate coverage programs for HIV/AIDS treatment are "not without moral ambiguity," the Times reports. Debswana offers antiretroviral drug coverage only to its employees and one spouse; however, employees may have children and more than one wife. In addition, most of the corporate programs offer coverage only while the person is employed by the company. For an HIV-positive worker, losing a job "could be tantamount to a death sentence," according to the Times. Some companies are also reporting low levels of participation in the programs because of fear of stigma or lack of awareness (Moore, Los Angeles Times, 12/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.