News / Africa

South African Business Tackles HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on businesses in South Africa.  One out of four South Africans of working age is HIV-positive.  Anglo American, one of the world's largest diversified mining companies, recognized the toll HIV was taking on its employees and its business. In 2002, it introduced a comprehensive prevention program in the workplace, the first of its kind in South Africa.  

The acting regional manager at Anglo American, Sydwell Sibiya, describes main elements of the company's HIV/AIDS program.

"HIV and AIDS pose a threat to employees, families and the communities," says Sibiya.  "Our effort focuses on combating the spread of HIV and AIDS.  Also, by so doing, we are ensuring that people can live a healthy life."

Sibiya says the company offers voluntary counseling and testing so employees can know their HIV status, and it runs awareness, education and prevention campaigns.  

"When we talk about care, support, and treatment, we also make sure that proper care and treatment is there for our employees, those that especially are HIV-positive.  Free treatment to all employees and their dependents," says Sibiya.

Prevention, Testing and Treatment

Anglo American employs 100,000 people in South Africa.  It has the world's largest workplace program for the prevention, counseling, voluntary testing and treatment of HIV.

The head of underground operations at Anglo Coal, John Standish-White, says about 16 percent of the workforce is HIV positive.  

He says Anglo American has a medical center and offers employees and their dependents free nutritional supplements and anti-retroviral treatment.

"We think there is a strong business case to be keeping people negative, as well as for the 16 percent of us who are positive, to be paying for those people to be actively on treatment and cared for ... we believe that makes good business sense as well," says Standish-White.

Simon Ndiangamandia has been HIV positive for seven years and is on anti-retroviral therapy.  He looks fit and healthy and has a positive outlook on life.  He says he is not happy with his HIV status, but has learned to accept it and treat it like any other chronic illness.

"I have made a major change in the people here in this place," says Ndiangamandia.  "I remember I was the first employee in the whole company to become public with my status and I did that just, mainly not just for myself only, but for the workforce of the company so that they can know that they can also live well."

Ndiangamandia says he always tells his colleagues that anyone can get HIV.

"And that is why people must keep on testing so that they can know if they are negative.  And, if they are negative, they must do themselves a favor and go and stay negative for life, not just for the whole year.  And, if they happen to be positive, they must not be sick and they must not die," said Ndiangamandia.

Health Investment Is Good Business

Anglo American Chief Medical Officer Brian Brink says in 2002 the company was confronted by an epidemic that seemed unmanageable and out of control.  He says investors were having second thoughts about putting money into a business that might not survive with that burden of disease.

So, in a huge leap of faith, he says Anglo American decided to make AIDS drugs available to its employees.

"We did not know exactly what it was going to cost overall," says Brink.  "We knew it was going to be a lot of money ...  actually the results have been dramatic, absolutely dramatic in terms of, first of all, in saving lives and making sure that people who did not have access to this treatment could get it. The cost of treatment is far outweighed by the benefits that we get back.  And, the benefits are, in particular, much reduced absenteeism due to HIV infections."

Dr. Brink is on the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  He says he is using this position to persuade employers that investing in health is good for business.  

"When you come to developing countries and these are the emerging economies of the future and you see what can be achieved by these investments in health, it really is quite dramatic," says Brink.  "We certainly have shown in our business the economics of dealing with AIDS effectively.  You can turn around what was once for us a huge threat into something that is entirely manageable.  In fact, it has a very positive impact for out business.  It allows our business to thrive and to grow."

Dr. Brink says a healthier population provides better opportunities for business.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
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.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid