HIV/AIDS Affecting Mining Industry Worldwide

Armen Hareyan's picture

Reuterson Wednesday examined the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the miningindustry. According to some officials, HIV/AIDS is "hamperingoperations" of mining companies worldwide during a period of "boomingdemand for minerals." Many officials cite the HIV prevalence amongcommercial sex workers in remote mining sites as a primary mode of HIVtransmission to workers in the industry. In Russia's largest goldmining area, the number of people living with HIV is more than threetimes the national average, while the HIV rate among South Africanminers is almost two times that of the general working population,according to Reuters. Other countries "must not fall into the same trap as South Africa," Lennox Mekuto, health and safety officer for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, said.

According to Reuters,health experts from seven large mining companies in May met for thefirst time in London to develop an improved strategy for controllingthe spread of HIV among miners. According to Neeraj Mistry of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,businesses in India have an opportunity to play a role in the fightagainst HIV/AIDS in the country. He added that governments also musttake action.


"In Russia and Eastern Europe, we are seeing that thegovernments are a bit slow," Mistry said, adding that the Chinesegovernment has been more responsive. "Companies that are now investingin China and working there are working hand-in-hand with the governmentto get a more comprehensive response in its strategies," he said.Joseph Amon, director of HIV/AIDS at Human Rights Watch,said that when he was working in Ukraine, it was "well known that onpay day, miners would spend a lot on drugs and alcohol, and HIV wasspreading quite rapidly."

Some mining companies in SouthAfrica are implementing HIV/AIDS programs that encourage workers toreceive HIV tests, provide treatment to sex workers and distributecondoms, Reuters reports. Gold Fields,the world's fourth-largest gold producer, has estimated that it losesaround $5 per ounce of gold produced in South Africa as a result ofHIV.

The company recently launched a program that offers monthly prizesto workers who receive HIV tests. BHP Billiton-- the world's largest mining company -- estimates that for everydollar invested in HIV training, education and medical programs, thereturn is fourfold in terms of benefits like retraining, absenteeismand productivity, Reuters reports. According to Reuters,miners worldwide are "anxious to build on lessons learned in SouthAfrica to try to stem" the spread of HIV in other countries (Stablum, Reuters, 7/11).

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