Global Treatment Update
Three large mining corporations active in HIV-ravaged Southern Africa have announced plans to offer antiretroviral treatment to all of their employees. The companies, Anglo American, Anglo Gold and De Beers are among the largest private employers in Africa, and HIV prevalence rates in countries where these companies operate, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, are among the highest in the world. Anglo Gold estimates that 28 percent of its South African employees are infected.
The announcement said that the program would be rolled out during the coming year with treatment delivered from existing company-sponsored clinics. Dependents will not be covered by this first phase of treatment, although De Beers has said it will extend treatment to a single sex partner of a worker.
The announcement is a victory for activist and labor groups that had been pressing for treatment access. Their attention now turns to other large mining companies in the region, such as Gold Fields and Harmony, who are still resisting offering treatment to their employees.
The presence of the Coca-Cola logo is nearly ubiquitous in Africa. But despite the company's dependence on a huge low-wage work force to distribute its product, Coca-Cola has so far refused to pay for HIV treatment for more than the top echelon of its employees. Coke's policy is that only HIV-positive people among its administrative staff are eligible for access to treatment. This leaves almost 100,000 bottlers and distributors without access to medicines should they become sick with HIV/AIDS.
On October 17, a Global Day of Protest has been planned to draw attention to Coke's fundamental obligation to implement comprehensive HIV/AIDS workplace programs and policies, which include treatment and care for infected workers and their dependents. Demonstrations are planned in the U.S., Thailand, South Africa, Morocco, and France. For more information: www.healthgap.org.
On August 22nd, HIV/AIDS activists from 21 African nations met in Cape Town to organize a Pan-African treatment activists movement to fight for access to affordable AIDS medicine and to create an African voice to talk to international organizations about the AIDS crisis.
"We are the ones who are suffering, but we are not taking up leadership roles in the fight against AIDS," said Mohammed Farouk, coordinator of Nigeria's AIDS Alliance. "It is time we Africans got together to assert ourselves."
Among the group's goals for itself:
"Develop a community-based response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa that places PLWAs at the center and ensures the involvement of PLWAs in key decision-making processes that will affect their lives."
"Mobilize our communities, our political leaders, and all sectors of society throughout the continent to ensure access to ARV treatment for all who need it, starting with the immediate implementation of the WHO goal to ensure ARV treatment for at least three million people in the developing world by 2005."
The World Health Organization (WHO) held an initial meeting in Geneva to begin setting up global partnerships and creating a framework for national planning, budgeting and implementation towards their goal of treating three million people within the next three years. They hope to have a "blueprint," a "roadmap," or some other metaphor for a plan ready to show by December 1 of this year.
This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. It is a part of the publication GMHC Treatment Issues. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.