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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Anglo to pay for Aids therapy
Aids patient
One in nine South Africans is infected with HIV
Mining giant Anglo American is to make treatment available to all HIV-positive employees, in one of the first corporate attempts to tackle South Africa's Aids epidemic.

The firm announced that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) would be provided where clinically necessary at company expense, and said it would consult with trade unions and the South African government on implementation.

Anglo is one of the first big firms in the country unilaterally to adopt free in-house treatment for HIV-positive employees, who it says account for 23% of its 90,000-strong southern African workforce.

The firm said implementing the programme would cost 1,700 rand (103; $161) per month per participating employee.

Price of procrastination

An earlier study by subsidiary Anglogold calculated that appropriate health measures would add $4-6 - or up to 2% - to the cost of producing an ounce of gold.

Aids campaigner
Protesters accuse the authorities of complacency
But it warned that the cost of the disease would rise to $9 per ounce if no action were taken.

Anglo's proposed scheme has certain restrictions: it is not open, for example, to employees with existing ART healthcare policies - some 12,000 southern African staff.

Combined with the natural reluctance of some workers to come forward to be tested, the firm said it expected participation in the programme to be about 13%.

Firms first

Anglo has tended to win high praise from campaigners, who are relying on unilateral initiatives from companies to lead the way.

Aids campaigners argue that the South African government has been slow to develop a strategy on HIV, despite the scale of the epidemic in the country.

But the company's fears over the costs of a complete ART programme roll-out have so far prevented it from doing much more than acknowledging the problem.

Other multinationals in South Africa, notably Coca-Cola, have been attacked for failing to meet promises on on HIV treatments.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mike Spicer, director, Anglo American
"There are costs and benefits in terms of a productive workforce for the company."

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28 Nov 01 | Africa
27 Nov 01 | Africa
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