About 66% of African Companies Say HIV/AIDS Will Affect Business, Survey Shows
Almost 66% of African businesses believe HIV/AIDS will "affect their bottom line" over the next five years, according to a survey released on Thursday by the World Economic Forum Global Health Initiative during the WEF Africa Economic Summit in Maputo, Mozambique, Reuters reports. WEF researchers surveyed 1,620 African businesses and found that most were "already experiencing some negative effects" from the epidemic, including rising absenteeism and higher health care costs for employees. Although 80% of the businesses surveyed said they were aware of the "threat" posed by HIV/AIDS, only 12% of businesses had workplace HIV/AIDS policies. GHI Director Kate Taylor said that "[c]ore business is really being affected," with companies "seeing operating costs, medical costs and even drops in revenue because of AIDS." She added that the survey indicated that when African businesses take steps to combat HIV/AIDS, they make "important contributions to fighting the epidemic," especially in areas where government intervention has been "patchy," according to Reuters (Quinn, Reuters, 6/3).
World Health Organization Assistant Director-General Jack Chow at the summit on Wednesday said that antiretroviral drugs and doctors who can administer the drugs both are in short supply and "remain serious problems" in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, Reuters reports. Although production capacity is improving as more generic versions of antiretrovirals are manufactured around the world, health care personnel shortages could impede the development of successful treatment programs, Chow said, according to Reuters. He added, "My collective sense is that momentum toward provision of ARVs is building. But we recognize that bottlenecks exist at the country level," pointing to personnel capacity as an issue to "think about." In addition, Aspen Pharmacare -- a South African producer of generic antiretrovirals -- on Wednesday announced it would ramp up production "as quickly as possible" with the creation of a $30 million plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, later this month. The new plant could "more than double" the company's annual production to more than eight billion pills, Reuters reports. Aspen Senior Executive for Strategic Development Stavros Nicolaou said, "That more than accommodates sub-Saharan Africa's needs, even if we got all the business, which we won't." Chow said that "over time" there would be enough antiretrovirals for WHO's 3 by 5 Initiative, which aims to treat three million HIV-positive people by 2005 (Reuters, 6/2).