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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
SOUTH AFRICA: The Business of Fighting AIDS: For Anglo's Brian Brink, Combating AIDS Is a Financial as Well as Moral Imperative
Richard Wachman
November 7, 2011
The Guardian (London) (11.04.11) - Monday, November 07, 2011

HIV/AIDS affects some 16 percent of mining group Anglo- American's overall permanent workforce of 70,000. In hard-hit South Africa, where Anglo is the largest private-sector employer, addressing how the disease impacts employees is critical.

"There was a time when investors were getting on the phone and asking whether the disease was going to bring down the organization," said Anglo's Brian Brink. "We were training two people for the same role in case one died on the job. It was that bad." In 2002, the mining firm began offering free HIV testing to all employees and providing free treatment for them and their dependants. Currently, approximately 94 percent of employees undergo voluntary testing.

"We have gone some way to remove the stigma surrounding HIV within the workforce," said Brink. "We want to take the 'exceptionalism' out of AIDS, because treatment allows people with HIV to lead a near-normal life, and they can continue to work." Brink said providing free HIV/AIDS treatment has boosted employee morale and improved relations with unions. "We have done the health economics and shown that for every dollar we invest in our AIDS initiatives, we get a financial return that is way in excess of that initial investment," he said.

But rising health care costs remain a concern, and Brink said the solution is reducing new infections through prevention and education. "Until we stop new infections, we aren't going to win," he added. "But I am optimistic. One of the most encouraging pieces of research this year found the risk of transmitting the virus to an uninfected partner was reduced by 96 percent if the carrier adhered to an effective antiretroviral therapy regime."