Globe and Mail Examines Mining Company’s HIV/AIDS Management Program
Toronto's Globe and Mail on Saturday examined how the South African mining company Anglo American is tackling HIV/AIDS among its employees with a comprehensive HIV/AIDS management program, which the company announced in 2002 and some industry and public health experts consider "far and away the best in the world." Anglo's health service every month starts 150 of the company's 28,000 HIV-positive employees on antiretroviral treatment. Anglo's mine in Goedehoop, South Africa, has begun a "newly messianic drive" in which employees are tested for HIV at least once annually, and the mine's 2,000 employees receive information about the virus with every managerial interaction, the Globe and Mail reports. In 2005, 96% of Goedehoop mine's employees received an HIV test, compared with 5% of employees who received an HIV test in 2003, before the testing campaign began, according to the Globe and Mail. About 135 workers at the Goedehoop mine currently are receiving antiretrovirals. In addition, the mine management has enlisted commercial sex workers from surrounding communities to work as peer educators and has provided them with condoms. HIV/AIDS education staff members also are reaching out to traditional healers in the area.
History of Program, Success, Criticisms
In its first year, the companywide HIV/AIDS management program cost Anglo $2,328 per HIV-positive person enrolled, according to the Globe and Mail. Since then the cost per patient has dropped, according to Brian Brink, Anglo's senior vice-president for medical affairs. Brink said, "The benefits outweigh the cost, and we've got data to prove it." From the year before and the year after the company began offering the treatment, sick leave at Anglo dropped by 69% and absenteeism fell by 53%, the Globe and Mail reports. Brink said deaths from AIDS-related illnesses are decreasing. In addition, tuberculosis cases have "dwindled to almost nothing," the Globe and Mail reports. DaimlerChrysler South Africa in 1999 began offering treatment to its 4,000 employees in South Africa through its health plan. Unlike most businesses, including Anglo, Daimler continues funding treatment for former employees. Anglo has been criticized for not offering treatment to HIV-positive family members of employees as Daimler does, but Brink said doing so "creates a liability." Brink also said the Anglo program continues to face the challenges of shame, fear and discrimination, which prevent employees from getting tested for HIV and enrolling in the health program (Nolen, Globe and Mail, 8/5).