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Tackling HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS has an impact on our business, not only in terms of our own employees but also in wider socio-economic terms in many of our markets.

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People are living with HIV/AIDS

In recent years, advances in health interventions have reduced the incidence of HIV/AIDS. In 2016, 1.8 million people became newly infected with HIV, a drop of 20% since 2013.

Measures such as behaviour-change campaigns, condom use and prevention of mother-to-child transmission have all helped. But still HIV remains a huge problem and we have seen the reality of people with HIV/AIDS presenting at our company clinics, particularly in Africa, often with devastating consequences for individuals and communities.

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30%

Don’t know they have the virus

We formulated our first policy on HIV in 1989. Since then we have maintained our resolve to combat the disease not only in our workplace but also in wider society through the use of partnerships. We’ve had some success in our workplaces in Africa where the incidence of HIV is now below the average and the mortality rate has dropped by up to 50%. But we know we have more to do.

Our approach to HIV/AIDS

Our HIV/AIDS programmes are an integral component of our medical and occupational health strategy and are a priority for our business. We revised our HIV/AIDS policy in 2016. This means it now embraces the principles and recommendations set out by the International Labour Organization (2010) and the UN High Level Meeting (2011), and is based on human rights ethics in accordance with the UN High Level Meeting on Ending HIV (2016).

What do our occupational health strategies cover?

  • access to primary healthcare
  • protecting health in the workplace
  • ensuring medical fitness for the job
  • actively promoting health and well-being.

Our company-wide standard of healthcare reinforces our commitment to the care and protection of employees living with the disease and to help prevent new infections. The standard underpins our approach to prevent discrimination against employees based on HIV status and to offer care and support when needed. It’s based on the principle of treating HIV/AIDS similarly to any other chronic disease and providing appropriate steps to combat it. To this end, we’ve integrated our HIV/AIDS programme into Lamplighter, our global health and well-being programme.

The key inputs to our HIV/AIDS programme in Africa include:

  • spreading awareness, information and education through employee ‘peer group educators’ and by training management groups in the latest developments
  • voluntary counselling and testing by healthcare providers
  • condom distribution for all employees
  • providing anti-retroviral treatment based on World Health Organization guidelines
  • monitoring treatment adherence and viral suppression
  • treatment of TB and other opportunistic infections
  • promotion of male medical circumcision.

In the case of pregnant women, we help with treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission. These policies are aligned with the key principles of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS.

Assessing the impact of our programmes

Our first local HIV programme started more than 25 years ago in the form of a life-threatening disease policy in South Africa. We went on to develop a roadmap for implementing a comprehensive programme across all our sites, using global and local business coalition networks to substantially increase testing and treatment in Africa.

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Our 25 year HIV programme in Africa

The results of our HIV programme in Africa

In 2010 we revised our roadmap to include the latest technologies, treatments and prevention-campaign methods, tailored according to the HIV/AIDS risk in different countries. In 2012 our results were published and shared with leading HIV/AIDS experts to gain insight into our future strategy.

We published a 25-year review of our efforts (PDF | 7MB) in 2014. As Doug Baillie, our Chief Human Resources Officer at the time, said:

“As we look back, we can see we have made progress and we are pleased to report a 30–50% drop in mortality across our sites, with an incidence rate that is at least 50% less than the national average.

“Mother-to-child transmission has dropped to under 1% due to treatment for all, and the quality of life of our employees and families has improved through our Lamplighter programme.”

Recognising the ongoing need for care of HIV/AIDS, he also acknowledged that “more needs to be done in the workplace and we are committed to the ILO’s recommendation of getting to zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths”.

Working with others to drive change

We’re one of the founding members of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC). We work closely with a range of other international organisations, such as UNAIDS, PEPFAR, USAID, WHO, the World Economic Forum, the Gates Foundation and the WWA (Workplace Wellness Alliance) as well as the Institute for Health and Productivity Management. In the spirit of sharing our learning, our programmes are available as models on the GBC and the Global Health Initiative websites.

We believe it’s important to mark World AIDS Day each December. Our sites contribute to awareness campaigns using a combination of the GBC, UNAIDS and WHO on HIV/AIDS campaign materials and local NGO and government messages.

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