Public Release: 

Big companies should provide HIV treatment to employees


Providing antiretroviral treatment to workers of large companies in Africa is feasible, according to the authors of a Viewpoint in this week's issue of The Lancet.

In 2001, the beer company Heineken decided to add highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to the package of medical benefits for employees. From their experience with the Heineken Workplace Programme (WPP), Stefaan Van der Borght (Heineken International Health Affairs, Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and colleagues from PharmAccess Foundation refute 11 reasons, given by companies, for not offering HAART to employees. Companies, for example have argued that HAART is too complicated to administer, too expensive, and other diseases should get priority over HIV. However, the authors say that by restricting the choice of HAART combinations to two instead of the possible five, the Heineken WPP is able to manage HIV patients effectively. The authors also argue that the cost of treatment should be placed in perspective of a healthy workforce. They add that in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV and tuberculosis are the biggest threats to the workforce and should therefore be priorities for companies, as well as governments and non-governmental organisations.

This week's lead Editorial highlights the role of business in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The Lancet comments: "HIV/AIDS has been with us for 25 years now. We know that people who live with the virus can control it and enjoy productive and fruitful lives. Business leaders need to realise that their responsibilities run deep and extend well beyond profit and loss."


EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Friday August 4, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Thursday August 3, 2006

Stefaan Van der Borght
T) +31651241544

The Lancet press office T) + 44 (0) 207 424 4949/4249

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