April 17, 2002
Anglo American Drops AIDS Plan
In a blow to hopes the private sector would help with the AIDS crisis in Africa, mining concern Anglo American will not start a pilot study examining the feasibility of providing AIDS drugs to its African work force, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Though the mining company, which also owns a stake of De Beers, wouldn't confirm the report, it did say it was discussing partnerships with other South African mining companies to explore options in fighting AIDS. Of the 36 million people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, 25 million live in Africa, says the United Nations.
Anglo employs 125,000 workers on the continent and estimated 20% of its workers are infected with HIV. It was one of the first major corporations to reveal measures aimed at treating AIDS among its employees. Its pilot study was to examine whether antiretroviral AIDS drugs would be feasible to administer under often harsh mining conditions, given the life-long commitment victims must make to taking the drugs.
WSJ quoted sources saying Anglo was in discussions with the South African Chamber of MInes, an industry organization, to begin an industry-wide study of the challenges of adminstering AIDS drugs. The group would examine issues such as whether to continue giving treatments to workers who leave their jobs, the expense involved in the drug delivery and the role the government might play. Anglo wants the South African government to help with the costs of treating migrant workers' families. But President Thabo Mbeki opposed widespread distribution of AIDS drugs by his government.
Last year, Debswana, the diamond mining company jointly owned by De Beers and the government of Botswana, announced it would begin subsidizing the cost of antiretroviral treatments for its HIV-positive workers and infected spouses. The Jewelers Charity Fund is also raising money to fight AIDS in Africa. It is donating $450,000 to a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS virus.