HIV/AIDS Affecting Mining Industry Worldwide, Reuters ReportsReuters on Wednesday examined the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the mining industry. According to some officials, HIV/AIDS is "hampering operations" of mining companies worldwide during a period of "booming demand for minerals." Many officials cite the HIV prevalence among commercial sex workers in remote mining sites as a primary mode of HIV transmission to workers in the industry. In Russia's largest gold mining area, the number of people living with HIV is more than three times the national average, while the HIV rate among South African miners is almost two times that of the general working population, according to Reuters. Other countries "must not fall into the same trap as South Africa," Lennox Mekuto, health and safety officer for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, said.
According to Reuters, health experts from seven large mining companies in May met for the first time in London to develop an improved strategy for controlling the spread of HIV among miners. According to Neeraj Mistry of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, businesses in India have an opportunity to play a role in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country. He added that governments also must take action. "In Russia and Eastern Europe, we are seeing that the governments are a bit slow," Mistry said, adding that the Chinese government has been more responsive. "Companies that are now investing in China and working there are working hand-in-hand with the government to get a more comprehensive response in its strategies," he said. Joseph Amon, director of HIV/AIDS at Human Rights Watch, said that when he was working in Ukraine, it was "well known that on pay day, miners would spend a lot on drugs and alcohol, and HIV was spreading quite rapidly."
Some mining companies in South Africa are implementing HIV/AIDS programs that encourage workers to receive HIV tests, provide treatment to sex workers and distribute condoms, Reuters reports. Gold Fields, the world's fourth-largest gold producer, has estimated that it loses around $5 per ounce of gold produced in South Africa as a result of HIV. The company recently launched a program that offers monthly prizes to workers who receive HIV tests. BHP Billiton -- the world's largest mining company -- estimates that for every dollar invested in HIV training, education and medical programs, the return is fourfold in terms of benefits like retraining, absenteeism and productivity, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, miners worldwide are "anxious to build on lessons learned in South Africa to try to stem" the spread of HIV in other countries (Stablum, Reuters, 7/11).
Reuters also examined the issue of HIV/AIDS and the mining industry in two additional articles. Headlines appear below.
- "My Wife Got HIV From Me" (Reuters, 7/10).
- "Take an AIDS Test, Win a Truck: One Miner's Lure" (Onstad, Reuters, 7/10).