Anglo American Public Limited Companies in South Africa

Introduction

Anglo American PLC Company is the largest Gold mining organization in the world. It has created many employment opportunities for many people all over the world. The company has many subsidiaries in many parts of the world, and therefore, it can be said to really have done well for itself. However, it has been greatly affected by the AIDS epidemic, and as a result, it has continually suffered from losses. Many employees of the company have died due to this condition making the company incur extra expenses of retraining new workers. (Lewis, 2001). Absenteeism has also been on the rise due to the sickness that befalls workers.

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This made the company decide to come up with solutions to try to assist its employees suffering from the disease. South Africa as a country has the largest population of people affected by AIDS in the whole world. (Fourie et al. 2001). Every day, about 1,500 are infected by HIV, which is the virus that causes the disease. It has been estimated that the rate of infection will continue going up as the years go by. (Cohen, 2002). Therefore a solution has to be reached to be able to combat the virus or try to lengthen the life span of those people already infected by the virus.

The AIDS Pandemic

There have been several attempts by the U.S government in addressing the problem of the AIDS epidemic. President Bush talked about a union that had been put in place to plan for an emergency AIDS relief. This was with an insight to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. (Webb, 1997). However, the South African government has demonstrated weak desire and reluctance toward waging a fight against the scourge. When the disease was first discovered, many African leaders denied the fact that it actually existed. The South African leaders, in particular, did not show seriousness in confronting the disease. They failed to provide AIDS campaigns that had effective leadership. The government refused to make follow-ups to ensure that the infected got affordable drugs. Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president, did not make matters any better. He claimed that AIDS was caused by poverty and other social, economic factors rather than the HIV virus (Cohen, 2002).

The government did not want to commit financially to the cause. It paid more attention to less expensive strategies of prevention which were not effective in the long run because only four per cent of the people were able to access the treatment. A very small percentage of the country’s resources were being channelled towards this program (Joan et al. 1997). Furthermore, there was not enough qualified staff to handle infected patients. The channels of distributing the antiretroviral drugs were inefficient; therefore, the infected patients were not assured of a constant supply of the drugs. The South African government lacked the proper infrastructure, and it did not have sufficient capacity to be able to deal with a large number of infected persons.

For the government to be able to fight the infection rate, it established goals or benchmarks for its campaign against the disease to be effective. The government has to set aside a large portion of its resources for the campaign to be successful and effective. I suggest that it should try working out the rate at which the amount of its GDP is going down due to the increase in the rate of infections. It makes sense for the government to be able to spend quite a large amount on the disease campaigns and save the country’s most productive people between the ages of 15 and 45 years from dying prematurely.

It has been noted that the lifespan of people in South Africa has gone down to 50.6. This is quite young, and it robs the government of a large amount of taxpayer’s money (Lewis et al. 2001).

The government should set up programs to educate people on the cause, prevention and management of the disease. It should aim at trying to prevent or lowering the number of new infections. This it can do through investing money to buy condoms and distributing them to people freely, and also offering counselling services to the already infected. It should also work at increasing the retroviral drugs in the market at reduced costs which will be affordable to many people. The government has to come up with strategies and means of giving care to the millions of HIV-infected people and children orphaned due to the disease.

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The Anglo American company had tried to try to extend help to its HIV infected employees by extending health benefits to them. It was also on the verge of offering free antiretroviral drugs to the infected employees. (Anglo American Group, 2004). The Anglo America company was after preventing and managing the disease. The company went to the extent of becoming a member of the South African Business Council on HIV/AIDS. The organization looks for new and best ways of dealing with the disease. It is formed of a group of multinational companies that have the responsibility of protecting the rights of infected workers and eliminating the effects of AIDS worldwide. The primary effort of Anglo America Company was to educate people and create an awareness that will help in the prevention of the infection. The focus shifted to minimizing the impacts of the epidemic when it advanced. It monitored the health of its employees and the levels of infections in its workforce. The company also set up programs to distribute condoms to their employees and communities around. It also worked at offering testing, counselling, and wellbeing programs to the people. The above efforts to try to have the disease among its workforce under control did not offer effective results. This forced Anglo American Company to come up with the pilot study.

The operations and profitability of the company were affected due to the continued increase in the epidemics in its workforce. It came up with the idea of providing antiretroviral drugs to its employees. This decision received a lot of excitement from other companies. However, it did not take off for various reasons. First, the company reasoned that it would be more expensive to offer retroviral drugs to its employees than it would be to leave its employees untreated.

The Anglo America Company considered the risks associated with managing the infected persons in its workforce to be very high. The cost of production had gone considerably high due to the efforts it had put in to help its workforce. The death benefits, high absenteeism of the workers all contributed to this. Therefore, the company abandoned the pilot study due to the high expenses associated with it. (Anglo American Group, 2004) The loss of productive employees was just too expensive for the company. The channels of distribution of the drugs were not effective, and in the long run, the company had to use a lot of money to ensure that the drugs reached the market. The administration of the drugs needed monitoring. The company was not in a position to do this due to the diverse nature of its workforce. To make matters worse, the South African rand depreciated, not making it any easy for the company to offer the drugs to the people. Finally, the antiretroviral drugs needed a long, continued administration that the company could not afford. Therefore, the pilot feasibility studies did not offer the solutions required to manage AIDS. Everyone thought that finally, a solution to combating the dreadful disease had finally been reached. When the feasibility study failed, many NGOs and stakeholders were discouraged. They had a lot of hopes in the company that they concluded that no one else could reach a long-lasting solution to the problem if the company could not (Anglo American Group, 2004).

The decision by the Company to abandon the feasibility study idea was not appropriate at all. It should have instead created policies regarding the HIV status of its workforce. Some of the things it should have considered to incorporate in the policies include: Setting up a Health trust fund where every employee was expected to contribute some money. This would then be used towards taking care of the infected employees. Secondly, it should only agree to meet a percentage of the drug costs. In doing this, it would save some money, and at the same time, it would have contributed towards supporting the infected employees. It should also work in collaboration with other companies. Merges formed with other companies towards the same cause will make it incur fewer costs on the distribution of drugs (Lewis et al. 2001).

The AIDS/HIV pandemic has not received much support from pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies demand the government to put their patent rights in place. They blamed the government for not showing any seriousness in the matter, and hence, this contributed to them showing reluctance in producing HIV/AIDS drugs (Joan et al. 1997). The patent rights would protect the companies by not having their drugs pirated under other names. The companies should be able to offer discounts on the drugs so that many people can be able to afford using them. Instead of producing generic versions of drugs produced by pharmaceuticals companies, they should work towards lowering the costs of the drugs. The companies failed to offer effective solutions towards managing AIDS, and that is what made many people put their hopes in the private sector. The companies should be able to gauge the economic situation in the country before pricing their patented drugs. The developing countries should be charged less on the drug as compared to developed countries (Lewis et al. 2001).

Conclusion

AIDS should not be put under stigmatization. It should be taken as any other normal disease that needs treatment. Research shows that a large segment of the working people in the world is either infected or affected by the disease (Cohen et al. 1996). Therefore, employers should be able to come up with strategies for taking care of the infected people in their workforce. This will be prudent enough if an employer wants to make more profits and reduce the losses that they would incur due to the deaths of the employees who would not be in a position to afford retroviral drugs. They should be able to come up with AIDS policies that will both favour them and, at the same time, their employees (Caldwell, 1993). Large drug companies should provide patented AIDS drugs to poor nations either for free or at affordable prices. This is to discourage the development of generic drugs that will be cheaper and which could eventually send them out of business. They should be able to do this by compensating for the rich nations. The exorbitant prices they will be charging the infected people from rich nations when they buy drugs should be able to make up for the losses they would incur in giving away drugs for free to the poor nations.

Appendix

The table below shows the consequences of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa.

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Table 1. The Consequences of the Pandemic: Projections to 201021

1999 2005 2010
Percentage of SA workforce HIV+ 11.5% 20% 22.5%
Percentage of SA workforce AIDSsick 0.4% 1.65% 2.7%
New AIDScases per annum 145,256 466,365 625,180
Number of AIDSorphans 153,000 1,000,000 2,000,000
The life expectancy of SA females (years) 54 43 37
The life expectancy of SA males (years)

References

Anglo American Group (2004): Anti-retroviral therapy programme – Progress Report. Web.

Arndt C. & Lewis J.D. (2001): The HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa. Sectoral Impacts and Unemployment. Journal of International Development. Guildford Press. New York.

Bond, George C. and Joan V. (1997): AIDS in South Africa. AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. Westview Press.

Caldwell, J.C & Caldwell, P. (1993): The nature and limits of the sub-Saharan African AIDS epidemic. Evidence from geographic and other patterns. Population and Development Review, Vol.19, No. 4.

Cohen, D. (2002): Human Capital and the HIV Epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. International Labor Organization.

Cohen, Barney and James T. (1996): Preventing and Mitigating AIDS in Sub-Saharan.

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Africa. Research and Data Priorities for the Social and Behavioral Sciences. National Academy Press. Washington, DC.

Fourie, P. and Schonteich M. (2001): Africa’s new security threat. HIV/AIDS and human security in southern Africa. African Security Review, Vol. 10, No. 4.

Webb, D. (1997): HIV and AIDS in Africa. Pluto Press, David Philip Publishers and University of Natal Press. Chicago.

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