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De Beers Becomes Latest Company to Make AIDS Drugs Available to Its Employees

August 12, 2002

The diamond giant De Beers announced today it would heavily subsidize the cost of AIDS medicines for its employees. The announcement makes De Beers the latest major business in South Africa to offer its employees medicine to fight the pandemic. "This is essentially a strong humanitarian and moral statement by this company," managing director Gary Ralfe told reporters. The offer was necessary because, according to Ralfe, the South African government's attitude toward the disease is "at best ambivalent," and at worst "pusillanimous."

De Beers plans to offer to pay for 90 percent of the cost of AIDS medicine for its 11,000 employees and their spouses. The company estimates that 12 percent of its workers are infected, and the program would cost about 25,000 rand ($2,500) for every employee who takes up the offer. The program is expected to begin in January.

The South African government has come under strong international criticism for its AIDS policy. It continues to resist providing pregnant mothers with an inexpensive medicine to prevent the transmission of the virus to their children, despite a court order to do so. The government maintains that the program is too expensive for a poor country. An estimated 4.7 million South Africans are infected with HIV.

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Excerpted from:
Associated Press
08.12.02; Ravi Nessman

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