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TANZANIA: Mining firm to begin ARV provision

The diamond mining company will begin providing ARVs
Mwadui, 14 March 2006 (PlusNews) - Tanzania's Williamson Diamonds Limited (WDL), located in Mwadui, some 800 km north of the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, will start providing antiretroviral therapy to employees, their families and people living in the surrounding villages this week.

Dr Berose Matoti, medical officer-in-charge of the Mwadui Hospital, said the voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centre at the hospital would offer antiretroviral therapy, now that it has secured clearance from the Tanzania Commission for AIDS (TACAIDS).

"We are implementing a comprehensive HIV/AIDS policy, run by a co-ordinator appointed by the TACAIDS," said WDL managing director Tony Devlin.

He said the VCT centre, which has been open for a year, served WDL employees and their families as well as residents in a number of villages close to the mine. WDL has more than 750 employees, while another 800 workers are employed by the mine's suppliers and contractors.

"There are more than 12,000 people within the WDL premises and tens of thousands others living in neighbouring villages. Our policy is to give workers and non-workers free services if they call at the VCT centre," he commented. "Last year, for example, we distributed 7,000 condoms free of charge and educated people about how to use them properly."

WDL was established over 65 years ago and is now jointly owned by the Tanzania government and South Africa's De Beers Group, the largest diamond mining company in the world.

Devlin said De Beers was committed to protecting, sustaining and developing human, social, economic and natural resources. "HIV/AIDS is indeed a complicated and multi-faceted economic and humanitarian challenge," he observed. "Our investment in people remains a core focus in our commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS."

While Devlin and Matoti could not say how many workers at WDL were HIV-positive, they noted that the prevalence rate in Shinyanga province, where the mining firm is located, was alarmingly high.

According to official statistics, about seven percent of adults in Tanzania are HIV-positive. The government planned to have at least 44,000 on antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2005, which is about 10 percent of the people in need of treatment.

Theme (s): Care/Treatment - PlusNews,

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