De Beers on journey to wellness

De Beers provides free treatment, care and support to HIV-positive employees and their families

De Beers provides free treatment, care and support to HIV-positive employees and their families

In 2001 De Beers pioneered an innovative HIV Disease Management Programme, the first workplace-based initiative of its kind anywhere in the world. The overall objective, supported by the HIV policy, was to provide antiretroviral medicine, as well as care and support, to infected and affected employees in a bid to reduce loss of life, prevent new infections and extend the lives of its employees.

Early diagnosis and access to treatment and ongoing support were key in ensuring the programme’s success, and it was soon extended to all De Beers business units. Today, the work carried out by De Beers and its businesses means that now less than 1%  of employees have lost their lives as a result of HIV.

“However, even one death is one too many. More needs to be done to fight the rise, as well as the stigma, of HIV.  The business is committed to the Unaids global “90-90-90” strategy and in 2016, the company adopted a “test and treat” policy.

This means that De Beers is aiming for 90% of employees to be tested for HIV, 90% of HIV-positive employees to be enrolled on a disease management programme and for 90% viral suppression.” says Dr Tshepo Sedibe - De Beers Group Head of Health

De Beers continues to offer free voluntary counselling and testing for its employees, contractors and their families, and provides free treatment, care and support to its employees and their families.

Loss of life related to HIV dropped in 2014 to less than 1% from around 30% in 1996, and more than 85% of employees living with HIV are registered on the HIV Disease Management Programme and receive treatment, care and support. Almost all of those on the programme have suppressed the virus and lead healthy and productive lives.

The efforts to fight HIV have also had a positive impact on Tuberculosis (TB) interventions, and De Beers now has one of the lowest TB incidence rates (65 per 100 000 employees) across the entire southern African mining sector.

However, there is still more work to be done. It is clear that challenges remain and require our ongoing commitment and action.

Important lessons have been learnt. Continual, leader-driven improvement efforts are key to ensuring that complacency doesn’t set in, and HIV targets are being incorporated across the business to ensure the issue is properly tracked and monitored.

Caring for employees

De Beers Consolidated Mines (DBCM) adopted the HIV Disease Management Workplace Programme in 2002, and since then have seen remarkable results achieved through our 90-90-90 strategy.

  • To date, DBCM has achieved:
  • 70% of employees know their HIV status;

  • 92% of employees living with HIV are linked to treatment, care, and support; and
  • 90% of employees on treatment are suppressing the virus, and living a healthy and productive life.
  • The company also has an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides counselling and psychological support for employees. The service is provided by independent external service provider ICAS, and can also be extended to employees’ spouses and families who are infected or affected by HIV.

    Power of partnerships

    Partnerships remain the cornerstone of De Beers’ success, and it is only by working with employees, local communities and producer country governments that the company can achieve what they have set out to do.

    In October, DBCM partnered with EOH Workplace Health and the South African Business Coalition on Health and Aids (SABCOHA) to offer free health screenings in the mining communities of Musina and Blouberg in Limpopo, at a health fair attended by Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

    The initiative was in response to government’s call for the private sector to play a more constructive and prominent role to ensure successful collaboration in achieving the goals set out in the National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2017-2022 for HIV, TB and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

    The NSP outlines the strategic framework for multi-sectoral partnerships to further accelerate progress in reducing the morbidity and mortality associated with HIV, TB and STIs in South Africa.

    As a result, De Beers and EOH invested R1.8-million each towards providing free health screening for blood pressure, TB, diabetes and HIV. This included free cancer screening, pap smears and mammograms for women through a partnership with Pink Drive.

    The initiative also aimed to make it easy and convenient for mining communities to prioritise their health and to understand the importance of early detection and behavioural change in managing key health risks.

    Leading up to the health fair, a total of 10 000 community members received comprehensive health screening and 100 micro enterprises were trained in SABCOHA’s BizAIDS module that includes Business Management, Health Risk Management and Succession Planning.

    The objectives of the training is not only to build sustainable businesses but to also provide skills to owners and partners of small businesses to become health promoters within their communities.

    Reinforcing the power of partnerships in achieving the NSP goals, the initiative has also been endorsed by the Department of Health and the South African National Aids Council as part of strengthening the efforts to address the social and structural factors that increase vulnerability to HIV, TB and STI infection in communities.

    Commenting on the mining company’s role towards a achieving the goals set out in the NSP, De Beers Consolidated Mines chief executive Phillip Barton said: “We continue to take the health of our communities, including our employees, very seriously. This can be seen in the remarkable results we have achieved through our 90-90-90 strategy. We have also focused our efforts on screening more than 90% of our employees for TB through our medical surveillance programme and wellness campaigns. However, these programmes cannot be limited to our employees only.

    We are committed to reaching out and making a positive impact in the health of the communities that are hosting us.”