To mark the 20th Annual World AIDS day on 1 December, people across Rio Tinto's African businesses are participating in events to raise awareness of and educate people about HIV/AIDS.
Twenty years after the first World AIDS Day, HIV/AIDS remains a critical challenge, especially in Southern Africa. It is estimated that of the 39.5 million people living with HIV worldwide, more than 63 per cent are from sub-Saharan Africa. The mining sector has been particularly hard hit due to a history of migrant labour and miners being housed in hostels.
Because some of Rio Tinto's operations are in countries with high infection rates of HIV/AIDS, the company is proactive and responsible in supporting employees and communities in treating the disease as well as preventing the spread of the disease. This is also in line with Rio Tinto's commitment to sustainable development.
Rio Tinto is a member of the Global Business Coalition against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis and chief executive Tom Albanese joined with other member CEOs from more than 90 companies pledging to commit to fight HIV/AIDS discrimination and stigma in workplaces.
This year, Rio Tinto's iron ore project at Simandou, in Guinea will hold open door days starting on World AIDS day where families and local communities visit parts of the camp holding prevention activities. An awareness day in the local towns will include football matches and condom distribution. In Conakry, 80 Rio Tinto employees participated in the UNAIDS march throughout the capital that raised money for a fund that helps HIV/AIDS victims.
The Rössing uranium mine in Namibia, will hold a candlelit vigil to mark the Day where peer educators in all departments will light a red candle and everyone will observe a moment of silence to remember those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
At the Palabora copper mine in South Africa a community commemorative day will be held on World AIDS day where the Mayor will give a keynote address encouraging people to know their HIV status. Many local businesses and health care agencies are involved in promoting the relevant services they provide.
A key focus of Rio Tinto's HIV/AIDS programmes is to encourage people to know their HIV/AIDS status through voluntary testing. Without knowing this, managing the disease, both on a personal health and wider community level, is very difficult.
Rio Tinto requires its HIV/AIDS strategy to be implemented wherever HIV poses a significant risk to the workforce, the business or local communities. Highly impacted businesses implement programmes that address stigma and discrimination, provide education and awareness, encourage workers to know their HIV status, and ensure affordable access to employees and their families to medical treatment.
Locally based external programmes enhance health care delivery, support education, awareness and prevention programmes and improve community access to HIV voluntary counselling and testing. These are having a significant impact on reducing the spread of HIV. In 2008, Rio Tinto was awarded a commendation by the Global Business Coalition against HIV, TB and Malaria for its commitment to community HIV programmes as evidenced by the Palabora Foundation.
About Rio Tinto
Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal and uranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) and iron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa.
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Please also see the GBC case study of the work at the Palabora Foundation: