News / Africa

South African Business Tackles HIV/AIDS

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid