Canadian Mining Companies Operating in Africa Consider Supplying Free Antiretroviral Treatment for HIV-Positive Employees
Some Canadian mining companies with operations in African countries are considering supplying free antiretroviral treatment to their HIV-positive employees, the Toronto Globe and Mail reports. Vancouver-based Placer Dome, the world's fifth-largest gold producer, estimates that at least 25% of its workers are HIV-positive. "We already have several programs around HIV -- education programs, handing out condoms to employees -- a number of those things we have instituted already," Brenda Radies, a spokesperson for Placer Dome, said, adding, "Going the next step to (providing) antiretroviral drugs is certainly over the past year something we have been looking at." The company is weighing several questions, such as whether to provide treatment only to South African workers or implement the policy companywide and what costs and challenges would arise with the latter option. Toronto-based Barrick Gold, which operates a mine in Tanzania, predicts that without intervention, 35% of its workforce would be HIV-positive within the life of its mine, according to a study conducted last year by the World Economic Forum's Global Health Initiative. Although Barrick's Tanzanian subsidiary began forming its HIV/AIDS policy in 1999, the company is currently working on improving basic infrastructure needs in the area, such as providing sufficient water and electricity. "We have been working on getting the conditions in place" to provide antiretroviral drugs to employees, spokesperson Vincent Borg said, adding, "We have not made a decision on providing them, but we are getting closer." If the Canadian companies decide to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to their employees, they will join other corporations, such as Anglo American, De Beers Consolidated Mines and Coca-Cola, that provide antiretroviral drugs to their employees in the region (Stueck, Globe and Mail, 2/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.