Caps to introduce HIV/Aids drugs

Ngoni Chanakira

LEADING pharmaceutical company Caps Holdings Ltd intends to launch its $10 billion anti-retroviral drugs project this year.



s-serif”>The company has however kept the actual cost of the project a closely-guarded secret but market analysts conservatively peg the figure at more than $10 billion.


Neighbouring South Africa has already introduced anti-retrovirals at affordable rates to workers in that country.


Caps has retail and distribution branches in South Africa and Botswana.

While management has been secretive about the venture because of its sensitivity the group this week confirmed the new project in its audited results for the year ended December 31 where turnover growth of 412% stood at $40 billion.


The group achieved consolidated attributable earnings of $10,8 billion that compared to a loss in the previous year of $115 million.


“The company anticipates the launch of its anti-retrovirals in 2004,” Caps said. “The group has committed vast resources on equipment, personnel, product trials and training to ensure the success of this endeavour.”

Caps said the profitability of its exports had been negatively impacted by the current exchange rates.


The group has decided to continue exporting in order to maintain market presence.


“This is important given that it may be difficult to re-enter these markets after a period of absence,” Caps said. “The incomes of the Zimbabwean population remain low. If inflation persists without real incomes catching up, our largest market continues to be threatened.”


The group pointed out that its foreign subsidiaries would continue to entrench its niche presence in foreign markets.


“We are seeking to do this through greater marketing presence and a wider product portfolio,” Caps said.


The spread and impact of HIV/Aids at the workplace and in the business community at large last year forced prominent business tycoons to form a business council chaired by Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd boss Washington Matsaira.


Known as the Zimbabwe Business Council on Aids, the council was launched in Harare.


Its mission was to try and prevent, control, mitigate and stop the spread and impact of HIV/Aids at the workplace and in the community at large.

Matsaira said the HIV/Aids virus affects everyone, every individual, family, social institution, organisation and indeed every business.


He said the pandemic, which is taking away more than 3 000 individuals weekly, poses one of the greatest challenges to business development in Africa.


“The epidemic claims some of the best business leaders, managers and a great number of workers at all levels of the business system,” Matsaira said.

“HIV-related absenteeism, loss of productivity and the cost of replacing workers threatens the survival of a number of businesses and sectors in the increasingly competitive market we find ourselves in. HIV/Aids does not only affect workers. By claiming a large part of the urban population and by impoverishing families and communities it also affects the market base of our businesses in Zimbabwe.”


He said the private sector was one of the key stakeholders in the fight against HIV/Aids, hence the formation of the Zimbabwe Business Council on Aids.


Some of the top company executives in Zimbabwe came together to launch this initiative.


The inaugural mem-bership comprises Ma-tsaira as chairman, chief executive officer ofUnilever Malcolm Hughes,the Cotton Company ofZimbabwe Ltd’s Sylve-ster Nguni, Zimplats’Roy Pitchford, Zimbabwe Sugar Refineries’ Patison Sithole, Kingdom Financial Holdings’ Ly-sias Sibanda, Delta Corporation’s Joe Mutizwa, Anglo American Corporation’s Godfrey Gomwe, Dairibord Zimbabwe’s Antony Mandiwanza, OKZimbabwe’s Willard Zi-reva, Intermarket Holdings’ Nicholas Vingirai, and Old Mutual’s Graham Hollick.


Other council mem-bers are the managing director of British American Tobacco Ken-nedy Mandevhani, Colgate Zimbabwe Ltd’s Davis Kanyama, and Securico Security Services’ Divine Ndhlukula.


Matsaira said the ZBCA was however open to all businesses to join and would be encouraged to do so.


“All companies have a responsibility as good corporate citizens of Zimbabwe to contribute to the fight against this dreadful disease,” Matsaira said.


The HIV prevalence by age group in Zimbabwe is shocking.

A survey by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare showed that between the ages of 25 and 29, 25% of men and 35% of women were affected while between the ages of 20 and 24, 9% of the men and 26% of the women were infected by HIV/Aids.


Between the ages of 15 and 19, 2% of the men and 11% of the women were infected.


The United Nations Population Department says in the Africa regional group Botswana has the highest HIV/Aids cases, closely followed by South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda.


Matsaira said it was clear that no one sector alone could make a significant inroad in the fight against the epidemic.


“A true partnership involving the government, the private sector and the community is essential to face the problem,” he said. “The business community is realising that its very survival depends on how effectively it joins forces with other partners to face the problem.”


Dairibord’s Mandiwanza said HIV/Aids was affecting virtually all business in one way or another.