Providing companies with a plan for a practical HIV policy that reduces the cost of the treatment for all employees

Project M.O.M. Sunshine in Cameroon aims to convince companies to provide medical, psychological and nutritional support to employees living with HIV/AIDS. Their main tactic is to present the company with a plan for a practical HIV policy that reduces the cost of the treatment and that benefits the company’s public image. In particular, the project negotiates with insurance companies dependent on company contracts to improve insurance policies with regard to workers with HIV, and making them more affordable to companies.

Project founder Marie Mendene saw the need for such a tactic because the management at her company did not have an official policy of providing treatment for workers who were HIV positive, since they feared that it would be too expensive. Mendene, an employee living with HIV, as well as company representative and founder of the project, was in a unique position to advocate for treatment.

The newly created project proposed a plan to the management to reduce the cost of the treatment by finding partners, either public or private (other companies), with which to pool their resources together and co-finance the cost. Partners included the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and pharmaceutical producers. They proposed working with management to reduce the cost in this way so as to make it acceptable to the company. As a further incentive to the management, they publicized the company’s good practice at international conferences in Europe and West Africa, as well as to organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and UNAIDS that collaborate with the project.

When the company was privatized and sold to a U.S. multinational, Mendene told the new management that the previous employers had been providing treatment to HIV positive workers, and asked them what they planned to do in this respect. At the company’s request, the project set up an HIV/AIDS task force which helped the company to improve its policy, like expanding access to insurance from just executives to coverage for all 4800 employees and their families. They also succeeded in convincing management to make official statements of the implication of this on the struggle against HIV/AIDS, and improve the purchasing system for medication at an insurance company and the public hospital, and ensuring greater confidentiality for patients.

This tactic has been used once successfully, and several other businesses, managerial union leaders and insurance companies have shown an interest in adapting the approach. Although employees continue to have misconceptions about the disease, the tactic has also helped to break the silence around HIV/AIDS for many of the employees.



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