We began operating in South African ten years ago and immediately witnessed the dramatic impact that of HIV and AIDS on our employees. Studies conducted at the time recognised the situation would become worse and with one in five employees HIV positive, the financial cost would be around ZAR90 million per year by 2017.
At that time, the prevailing view in the mining industry was that HIV/AIDS was a personal issue and that the companies' obligations were limited to distributing information on prevention. Glencore Coal identified this as a business risk and recognising that a healthy workforce is more productive than an unhealthy one realised that the cost of addressing the issue would be less than continuing with a minimum intervention approach.
While the business case was important, Glencore Coal felt equally strongly that it has a moral obligation, that it was the right thing to do. As Glencore Coal's Chief Executive, Peter Freyberg explained, "Glencore Coal is just another member of society... but we are a very large and influential one that can have a very large and significant impact."
Following discussions with management and employees, labour unions, and a non-governmental organisation specialised in mitigating HIV and AIDS, Re-Action!, Glencore Coal chose to partner with Re-Action! to develop its programme. Working also with the local government in the Mpumalanga region, the main objectives of Glencore Coal's programme are to halt the spread of HIV and AIDS and to offer free testing, counselling and treatment to all employees. A Steering Committee, consisting of management, employees, union representatives, communities, Re-Action and Mpumalanga provincial government, ensures all stakeholders are fully informed of the programme's activities and involved in the decision-making process.
Only a few months after the programme in the workplace had commenced, it was recognised that it would need to be extended into the community, or else there would be no real chance of fighting the disease. The programme offers counselling, testing and treatment for community members and has obtained additional funds for treatment from agencies such as the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Through its ground-breaking public-private partnership with the Mpumalanga provincial government, the programme responds to needs identified by the local government and has spread to areas where Glencore Coal does not operate.
There is a great deal of stigma attached HIV and AIDS in South African society, making testing and registering people for treatment an ongoing issue. All records and data relating HIV positive employees is kept strictly confidential. This has helped to increase participation in the programme and has removed concerns that jobs would be lost if an individual was diagnosed as being HIV positive.
The stigma associated with HIV and Aids has been further overcome through involving patients who had participated in the programme and who knew the challenges and benefits. These Wellness Champions are employees, living with HIV, who decided to disclose their status to demonstrate the quality of life that is possible. They are raising awareness among our employees and community members, not only about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, but also about other diseases such as cancer, and about a healthy lifestyle in general.
Traditional healers, who command respect and have strong influence in the community, are also involved in the programme. One of the main reasons for postponing treatment is the strong beliefs that exist in the effectiveness of traditional healing. Traditional healers are trained to understand and recognise the symptoms of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses, and refer people to clinics.
Community Outreach Workers, employed by Re-Action<strong>!</strong>, undertake door-to-door household assessments. They travel on foot to see people from the poorest backgrounds, to assess their health, provide voluntary HIV testing and counselling, asses their economic situation and other issues they might have, direct them to clinics for free treatment and to advise them on other issues, such as how to access government grants. So far, they have visited around 35,000 households and by bringing the service to their homes, have succeeded in reaching people that would normally not visit clinics, because of the stigma or for any other reason.
To date, more than 17,000 Glencore Coal employees and members of the community have received the treatment. Our infrastructure development programme has established eight clinics, providing services to a population of over one million people in total.
Our overall target is for every employee to be aware of their HIV status, and, if necessary, to be registered on a treatment programme. Our 2011 target was for 65% of employees to be tested, we achieved 69%. Our objectives continue to be to prevent new infection and to offer access to the same programme to employees' dependents and community members.