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AFRO-NETS> South African Businesses Propose Funding HIV/AIDS Treatment
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> South African Businesses Propose Funding HIV/AIDS Treatment
- From: Dieter Neuvians MD <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 7 May 2001 12:53:26 -0400 (EDT)
South African Businesses Propose Funding HIV/AIDS Treatment
The South African Chamber of Business has decided to back a plan in-
volving major corporations to make low-cost HIV/AIDS treatment widely
available, with South Africa's largest company, London-based Anglo
American taking the lead, the South Africa Sunday Times reports
(Bobby Jordan, 6 May).
"There's so much momentum on this now," said Clem Sunter, director of
Anglo American Corp. of South Africa. "I don't think anything could
turn it around." Although it is not yet finalized, company executives
appear fully committed to supporting the plan, and a board meeting in
London is expected to formally consider it next Monday.
Brian Brink, the head of Anglo American's medical program, said the
drug treatment may cost as much as US$ 4.5 million the first year,
rising to several times that amount in subsequent years. According to
Brink, however, the savings due to fewer death benefits, less absen-
teeism and other factors could greatly exceed the cost.
Brink also said purchasing anti-retroviral drugs "isn't a cost that's
going to kill the company, it's a cost that's going to protect the
company." The move could also send a positive signal to the mining
conglomerate's investors, who are worried the company has not been
managing the epidemic that is ravaging its workforce.
The giant mining firm employs 160,000 workers in Africa and estimates
20% of them are infected with HIV. The company intends to treat em-
ployees and their spouses, which could exceed 50,000 people.
Low-cost anti-retroviral drugs will most likely be acquired from the
Indian generic pharmaceuticals company Cipla, with which Anglo Ameri-
can executives have already met. According to Brink, if no company
steps forwards and acquires a license to import or manufacture the
drugs in South Africa, Anglo American will apply for the license it-
self to assure a low cost (Mark Schoofs, Wall Street Journal, 7 May).
According to the Sunday Times, the drugs would either be heavily sub-
sidized or provided free of charge to Anglo American workers. AIDS
activists have responded favourably to the plan, while a union repre-
sentative said the union believes the proposal should be part of a
comprehensive plan aimed at treating miners' families and changing
"We are not against what they are proposing, but we need more discus-
sions on the issue," said National Union of Mineworkers' HIV/AIDS co-
ordinator Lennox Mekuto. "One can't just address the issue of drugs
South African business leaders estimate that HIV/AIDS will have a
massive effect on the local economy. With 4.7 million South Africans
infected with HIV and 1,500 more being infected daily, urgent inter-
vention from the private sector and the government is needed, busi-
ness leaders say. Companies may have to train three people for every
job, as the death toll from AIDS is expected to reach 500,000 annu-
ally by 2008 (Jordan, South Africa Sunday Times).
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