Some Oil Companies in Africa Begin Providing Antiretroviral Drugs to Employees
The largest oil companies in the world have started to distribute antiretroviral medications to their HIV-positive employees in Africa to help reduce the business costs of the epidemic, Dow Jones News Service reports. Oil companies, including Royal Dutch/Shell Group, BP and Total SA, have "follow[ed] the lead" of mining firm Anglo American, which began distributing drugs last year and has subsequently lowered mortality rates among its HIV-positive employees, according to Dow Jones News Service. According to a BP feasibility study, costs from missed work days and replacing ill and dying workers outweighed HIV/AIDS treatment costs. The companies say that treatment is "difficult and risky" in some areas where medication cannot "be sustained by a local health care system," because people taking antiretroviral combinations could experience serious side effects, according to Dow Jones News Service. Shell is examining ways to standardize treatment guidelines that currently exist in South Africa, Nigeria, Gabon, Kenya and Cote d'Ivoire, and ChevronTexaco plans to start distributing antiretrovirals by the end of the year in Angola, where it has large offshore drilling rigs.
Do No Harm
However, some companies have decided that antiretroviral drug administration could "d[o] more harm than good" if the companies cannot guarantee follow-up care, Dow Jones News Service reports. Therefore, some companies are providing different benefits. For example, ExxonMobil links employees to local and nongovernmental organizations and is focusing on prevention and education efforts. ExxonMobil spokesperson Sandra Duhe said, "Treating HIV/AIDS is not an ExxonMobil business core competency, but this fact in no way lessens ExxonMobil's concern for the issues presented by HIV/AIDS." Some HIV/AIDS advocates say that they want all oil companies to cover medication for subcontractors and workers in franchise operations, including gas stations, in addition to other employees, Dow Jones News Service reports. The U.S.-based not-for-profit advocacy group Health GAP said that it will continue to push the U.S. divisions of Shell, BP, Total, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Arco and Unocal to provide treatment for their HIV-positive employees and contractors in Africa (Oster, Dow Jones News Service, 10/29).