The AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa is forcing multinational corporations to consider supplying antiretrovirals to keep African employees alive. Many companies already have AIDS education programs and free condom distribution. Time will tell if other corporations will follow the lead of the handful of companies who have already taken action:
- BP, DaimlerChrysler and Heineken provide antiretrovirals to African employees. DaimlerChryslers research showed that antiretroviral treatment for HIV infection is cheaper than treating AIDS.
- A study for BP concluded that providing the medication would cost $2.5 million more than not providing it; however, the report calculated the current cost of medications. If future technology matches the progress of recent years, it will be cost-effective to provide the treatment because of the resulting cheaper outlays for death benefits, sick leave, recruitment and other AIDS-related costs.
- In September 2002, Coca-Cola expanded coverage to about 60,000 workers after lobbying by nongovernmental organizations.
- Like BP, Shell plans to cover medications for employees and their dependents. Starting in February 2003, an industrial theater operation will travel to company sites across South Africa, enacting lifelike HIV-related dramas to encourage workers to know their HIV status. A rollout of the antiretroviral program will accompany the awareness campaign. Shell took action after learning that 200 of its retail employees had died of AIDS over a two-year period.
- ChevronTexaco currently offers antiretroviral therapy only to HIV-infected pregnant women. Stephen Simpson, the Angola-based regional medical director, said the company would consider offering the medications more widely only if it can guarantee the supply and work out the logistical challenges.
- ExxonMobil views HIV/AIDS like any other illness, and prefers working through existing providers to build local infrastructure, according to international medical director Steven Phillips. But he noted that providing antiretrovirals is a "subject of active internal review."
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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.