News / Africa

Battling AIDS with Business

Dr. Brian Brink, CMO, Anglo-American  (De Capua)
Dr. Brian Brink, CMO, Anglo-American (De Capua)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Africa’s private sector is being asked to play a bigger role in fighting HIV/AIDS. The Gift from Africa initiative calls on businesses to invest in the continent by investing in health. The initiative was discussed at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington.



The initiative is a partnership between the private sector and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Sixty percent of the fund’s allocations go to Africa. And it’s set a goal to save 10 million lives and prevent up to 180 million new infections over the next four years. However, to do that officials say they need help from private companies across Africa.

Dr. Brian Brink of South Africa is the longest serving member of the Global Fund’s board, but he’s also a businessman. Brink is senior vice president and chief medical officer of the Anglo-American, one of the world’s largest mining companies. Ninety percent of its operations are in developing countries, many in Africa.

“When we mine in developing countries, we meet the people.and we see the burden of disease in communities. Very often mines are not where the big cities are. The mines are often in the more rural areas - places where health services are perhaps weakest, where the burden of disease has the biggest impact on communities. And guess what? That burden of disease affects our businesses,” he said.

It affected Anglo-American's productivity and efficiency.

“It’s no good as a business to just stand back and look at government and say, look, fix this health problem. Sort it up, because we want to get on with business. It doesn’t work like that. We learned that with the AIDS epidemic around the turn of the millennium,” he said.

Anglo-American offered free AIDS treatment for all of its employees beginning around 2002.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were promising,” Brink said, “but the result was quite extraordinary. Something which was a huge risk to our business – over 20 percent of our employees were HIV infected. They were getting sick and they were dying. You can’t run a business like that. Bringing treatment turned that threat around 180 degrees. In retrospect now, 10 years later, and you look back it was one of the smartest business decisions we ever made.”

Brink said HIV/AIDS no longer poses a risk to his company. Over 90 percent of employees take an AIDS test every year.

“We encourage our people now to start treatment for HIV as soon as they’re ready. We don’t wait for them to get sick. We don’t wait for them to get TB. We don’t run the risk that they’re going to spread the infection further. We deal with it. Just get on and treat it,” he said.

The cost of AIDS, he said, is manifested in employee absenteeism, in paying benefits when people get sick, disabled or die. What’s more, skilled workers are lost and new workers need to be trained.

“Those costs make up 95 percent of the cost of AIDS. The cost of treatment is only five percent of the cost of AIDS. Why just spend the five percent and avoid the other 95 percent. I mean it’s simple. It’s an absolute no brainer,” he said.

He said when business deals with the burden of disease upfront an HIV infected employee can do the same work as an uninfected worker. Brink says business in Africa should engage with the Global Fund.

Mozambique health minister, Dr. Alexandre Manguele, also spoke at the Gift from Africa session at AIDS 2012. He says his country is feeling the burden of HIV among its workforce.

“Many people move from Mozambique to South African to work in mining. But many people get sick. They come back to Mozambique very sick usually with AIDS, with tuberculosis and others, but mainly those ones,” he said.

They’re put on treatment when they return home.

“But after a few weeks or months people feel better. They give up the treatment. They disappear and they go back again to South Africa. The same happens with tuberculosis,” he said.

It becomes an endless cycle of ineffective treatment, creating the risk of drug resistance and a further spread of the disease.

The Mozambican health minister called for a regional approach to treating HIV/AIDS, rather than having different drug regimens in each country. He says a partnership between the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and African businesses could help establish an innovative approach to tackling those diseases.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid