South African Mining Company Gold Fields To Provide HIV-Positive Workers With Antiretroviral Drugs
South African mining company Gold Fields yesterday announced that it will offer antiretroviral drugs to all of its HIV-positive South African workers through a pilot program, Dow Jones International News reports. Although one-third of Gold Fields' 48,000 South African employees are HIV-positive, only approximately 1,000 will initially qualify for antiretroviral therapy, according to Gold Fields spokesperson Willie Jacobz (Aljewicz, Dow Jones International News, 4/1). Jacobsz said that AIDS currently costs the company $3.22 per ounce of gold mined due to health care costs, lost production and funeral benefits, according to Reuters (Reuters, 4/1). The antiretroviral drugs are expected to cost Gold Fields $150 to $190 per month per person (Dow Jones International News, 4/1). "The overall cost impact [of providing antiretrovirals] will not be particularly significant in the short term," Jacobsz said, adding, "Addition of HAART will take [the company's AIDS-related costs] from $3.22 per ounce to $3.25 per ounce in the first year." The cost of the drugs will lead to a "peak" in production costs in 2009 at $5 per ounce of gold mined, Jacobsz said, according to Reuters. South Africa is the country "worst affected" by HIV/AIDS worldwide, but the government so far has not agreed to provide antiretrovirals to HIV-positive individuals in the country, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/1). Gold Fields already provides antiretrovirals on "a limited basis" to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and for "post-exposure protection" for rape survivors and people who may have been exposed to the virus at the mines, according to Dow Jones International News (Dow Jones International News, 4/1). Gold Fields in August 2002 launched the "Wellness Management Program," under which employees could receive voluntary HIV testing and counseling and HIV-positive employees could have access to "close and regular monitoring, counseling and treatment" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/14/02).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.