Mining giant Anglo American has done what much of the country, NGOs and the government cannot – persuade men to test for HIV and get treatment if they test positive, writes Katharine Child in a Business Day analysis. This has dropped HIV fatalities in 2019 at Anglo American’s mines in South Africa to zero and substantially reduced TB cases.
What makes Anglo’s achievements unusual is that South Africa men generally do not access antiretroviral (ARV) medication even after they test positive. The report says from 2012 until earlier this year, former health minister Aaron Motsoaledi repeatedly begged men to test for HIV. “We have a problem with males when it comes to testing,” he said. The reluctance of men to be tested and get care shows in South Africa’s life expectancy figures. South Africa’s biggest killer remains TB, of which about 75% is HIV related. Men’s life expectancy is 60 years and women’s is 67.
Anglo has the UN‘s 90-90-90 goals as part of business units performance targets and are linked to CEO Mark Cutifani’s performance assessment, says Tracey Kerr, group head of sustainability at Anglo. In 2018, 88% of Anglo employees in Southern Africa tested for HIV. The TB incidence last year was 242 per 100,000 of its workers, below the South African rate of 781 per 100,000.
Anglo American has achieved high testing and treatment rates through a “captive audience” of workers and making testing normal, the report says. Leaders from Cutifani to Amplats CEO Chris Griffith often publicly undergo tests. This is to keep the message that regular testing just as much part of working life as a compulsory annual fitness test, explains Kerr. Workers know a positive test does not mean dismissal or ill health, says Dr Tshepo Sedibe, head of health at De Beers.
The report says Anglo American, under former chief medical officer Brian Brink, has always been a step ahead of the government in its response to HIV. It rolled out free ARVs before the government did in 2002 and allowed people to get treatment immediately after testing before the government enacted this policy. “It’s about making it easy,” says Kerr.Full Business Day report