De Beers was honored for its HIV/AIDS counseling and testing policies by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS recently.
The company received the award at the GBC’s Awards for Business Excellence gala, where the speakers included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, and actress Angelina Jolie, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
AIDS has become a serious issue for De Beers. The backbone of the company is in AIDS-ravaged Botswana, where as much as a third of the population has the disease.
De Beers was commended for its programs run in partnership with the South African National Union of Mineworkers, which has led to an increase in the number of workers being tested. In some campaigns, 80 percent to 90 percent of the workplace received testing.
De Beers said in a statement that testing is effective only if offered as part of a comprehensive program. Without being able to offer access to treatment to those who discover they are HIV-positive, there is little incentive for individuals to come forward. So the company offers free anti-retroviral treatment to employees and a spouse or life partner. De Beers also has extended the policy to retired or laid-off employees.
The company also has a peer educator program that uses employees to encourage testing by destigmatizing the disease.
“We recognize the need for a progressive and innovative approach to meet the threat posed by the epidemic to our business, our employees, their families, and the communities in which we operate,” said Jonathan Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines.