Workplace HIV treatment programmes have significant benefits

10 September 2015
An HIV-positive woman in South Africa

Company-provided antiretroviral treatment (ART) programmes are found to be highly cost-effective in settings with a high HIV prevalence. Data published in PLOS Medicine on mining company Anglo American’s workplace HIV treatment provision in South Africa found that the cost of providing the treatment was significantly less than the cost incurred from having sick employees.

In 2013, South Africa had an estimated 6.3 million people living with HIV and an HIV prevalence of 19.1%.  Anglo American have been providing HIV treatment for its employees living with HIV since 2002, and were one of the first companies to provide HIV services in a low-resourced, high-prevalence setting.  

The study modelled the effect of increasing coverage of its treatment programme from 10% to 97% of all employees living with HIV by 2022. They found that by providing the programme, the company saved money compared to when no treatment was provided. This is because of reductions in absenteeism, paying-out of benefits and hospital bills and replacing sick employees. They found that the annual cost of HIV to the company would decrease by 5%, and the average cost per employee living with HIV would decrease by 14%.

The authors note that a limit of the study was that it did not look at the benefits of providing HIV treatment from the perspective of the workers and their families. Whilst more research is needed, it is nevertheless important to have employer support for people living with HIV to improve their health and mental wellbeing, and also morale.