Anglo American's AIDS Initiative


Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is chairman of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, an alliance of more than 200 international companies, including Anglo American (AAUK), where he's also chairman. He was in Shanghai taking part in the United Nations Global Compact Summit to discuss innovative approaches to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Moody-Stuart spoke with BusinessWeek's Asia correspondent, Frederik Balfour, on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. The topics ranged from Anglo American's own attempts to grapple with the AIDS epidemic in South Africa -- where up to 20% of the workforce in some company mines is infected -- to the potential threat of AIDS to call-center workers in India, to the carbon credit trading in China to reduce emissions in coal mining. Here are edited excepts of their conversation:

What is the prevalence of AIDS in your mines in South Africa?

In some of our platinum and diamond minds, it's as high as 20%.

Have you worked out how much HIV/AIDS costs your corporation?

I don't know, but Brian Brink [an Anglo American vice-president and physician] in South Africa did the first reasonable analysis. He found if you look at the full cost of treatment of anti-retroviral drugs [which Anglo American provides free to infected employees] and delivery systems, the reduction in absenteeism pays for three-quarters of that. He found if a company already delivers primary health care, the reduction up the line of the load on the system will pay for the other quarter. So it's blindingly obvious, if you start on prevention, it will pay for itself.

It was reported in the India media that you were sounding the alarm of AIDS-threatening [customer] call centers.

I was misquoted. I am not saying it's an impending disaster, I'm saying we should check on it. These are young, affluent people for the first time away from their families. We know everywhere in the world that if you have males with money, and they're mobile and away from home, those are classic transmission factors.

But aren't more affluent people likely to know more about prevention?

Socially, in India, interaction with sex workers is more prevalent with lower-income echelons of society. There's probably a higher risk in China, where, given the business-entertainment tradition, it's more accepted at higher levels.

But there are interesting things one learns about social mores. In India, where antenatal women tested positive for HIV, 10% of their husbands did not. That's not something you would have expected in India.

So what does that tell you about prevention?

That every society has different behaviors, and you can't have a single approach. You must take in different beliefs and taboos. But there's no one-size-fits-all approach nor a single silver bullet. You have to have very strong government leadership, backed by active corporate activity, in countries like Thailand, Brazil, and Uganda.

In China, now we're getting it. Beijing just announced a program to hit 120 million migrant workers with education, and they plan to reach 65% of this population next year and 85% the year after. [Currently,] provinces and districts are only addressing their own populations and not dealing with migrant workers.

The second thing you need is ready availability of testing. In Africa, unless people know their status, you don't have a hope. Before, testing was slower and more expensive. Now it takes 20 minutes with a mouth swab. There are no needles or pricks or medical waste to deal with.

Also, there's the whole issue of confidentiality and trust and antidiscrimination. That was a barrier in South Africa, where testing was done by the employer. People were nervous, so you need a lot of trust building with unions, management, workers, local traditional healers. Now most successful mines in South Africa test everyone voluntarily once a year. I just got a message [on his BlackBerry] that at one of our mines, 93% of workers got voluntary testing.

What initiatives has Anglo American taken in China?

We have started with awareness. When we first went to local health authorities asking for help, their reaction was, "No, it's not a problem here." But with some coaxing, they they came to do it and got enthusiastic and even screened our awareness campaign on local television.

What can you tell me about your investments in China and environmental initiatives?

We are exploring for coal and platinum, among other things. The government invited us to invest to improve things. We were asked to merge five small quarries [near Shanghai] with appalling environmental conditions and safety record, where 10 to15 people [out of a workforce of a few hundred] were getting killed every year. You had people abseiling down a cliff, stuffing dynamite sticks. Since June, 2004, when we took over, there have been no deaths and only one accident where someone hurt [his] leg.

In coal, the safety record varies from very good to outrageous. Fatalities in China per ton mined are 150 times the international standard.

What potential do you see for carbon credit trading in China?

The [Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol] is off to a slow start. It has taken an unconscionable amount of time, due to the bureaucracy [of the United Nations, which administers the mechanism to register carbon credits]. The perception is that the effort [to get qualified] is very high, and the transaction cost to get credits approved is very high. That's one reason for the strong discount [in the purchase price of carbon credits].

But there are opportunities for us to make investments in developing countries where we can achieve greater gains in emissions reductions [of greenhouse gases] at lower cost. In paper and packaging, we use a lot of biomass, and the liquid effluent in boilers is a significant source of [potential energy]. We also see opportunities in selling coal with emissions certificates. The Chinese government will give us mining licenses provided we use gasification [of the byproduct when coal is burned] or convert it to liquids for a more efficient use of coal. The main thrust is clean coal technology.


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