South Africa: De Beers AIDS Plan Goes to Great Depths
October 11, 2005
The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS recently honored De Beers and five other companies for efforts to fight the epidemic. De Beers was recognized for its workplace HIV counseling and testing program. Last year, 95 percent of the workers at Koffiefontein, one of the company's seven South African mines, were tested.
The company offers a wellness program and provides AIDS drugs to employees, their partners, and workers who have been laid off or retired.
"Testing is important because it changes behavior," said Busi Boikanyo, a nurse with Careways Group, which conducts counseling and testing at De Beers' Cullinan mine near Pretoria. De Beers brought Careways into Cullinan in response to workers' unease about the confidentiality of in-house services. When workers asked for testing facilities within the mine, the company complied. Two weeks into Cullinan's latest testing drive, launched last month, 70 percent of the company's 2,700 workers had been tested.
Thabo Manne, Cullinan's HIV/AIDS coordinator, said area residents have asked the mine to provide testing facilities for them, too. Manne said such interest could result from reluctance to use overburdened government clinics and a desire to avoid stigma by not being tested in their communities.
Although increased testing has upped the number of workers and spouses enrolled in wellness programs, few take advantage of the drugs offered, said De Beers' HIV/AIDS community program manager Tracey Peterson.
The company estimates 10 percent of its 10,000 workers are HIV-positive. By the end of August, only 310 were enrolled in the wellness program, and half of them were taking AIDS drugs. Manne said many still rely on traditional remedies, believing media reports that antiretrovirals are not the only way to deal with HIV/AIDS.
Business Day (South Africa)
10.06.05; Tamar Kahn
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.