Anglo American, the London-based resources group, cannot afford to supply antiretroviral drugs to all its HIV/AIDS infected workers in South Africa, according to the company's medical department. Brian Brink, Anglo American's senior vice-president (medical), said the company's 14 000 senior staff would receive antiretroviral treatment as part of their medical insurance, but that the provision of drug treatment for lower income employees was too expensive.
About 21% of Anglo American's employees in South Africa are HIV-positive. The company employs 160 000 people in sub-Saharan Africa, the bulk of them in South Africa, which has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the world with about 250 000 people forecast to die of related diseases this year.
Brink said that medicines at cost were too expensive, strict adherence to drug protocols uncertain and the extent of a company's obligation to treat current and ex-employees and their dependants too daunting. An antiretroviral treatment costs about R1 500 a month. Most large employers, including mining companies, have also shied away from costly commitments to providing antiretroviral treatment, restricting their use to pregnant mothers and children. (Source: Financial Times via Business Day, 9 October 2001)