Could mining firms be at the forefront in the fight to contain AIDS? A Reuters story claims that up to one in every three mining workers in South Africa is infected with the virus, and it’s getting so bad that companies are taking notice:

Firms are enticing miners to take HIV/AIDS tests by offering prizes, sending mobile treatment units to the bush where sex workers operate and blanketing the region with condoms.

For instance, Gold Fields gives each miner who takes an HIV/AIDS test a lottery ticket, offering monthly prizes of cell phones, televisions and cash, plus a final sweepstake where one worker wins a new pick-up truck.

BHP Billiton -- the world's largest mining company -- said for every dollar it invests in HIV training, education and medical programs the return is four-fold in terms of benefits such as re-training, absenteeism and productivity.

"When we started our HIV program we didn't wait for any government to say yes or no, if there is a risk for an organization we take appropriate action."

For years, activists have been calling on governments and the UN to spread awareness and treatment. It looks like business could instead be the source of more effective and efficient efforts against the epidemic.

Steve Chapman pointed out the idiocy of government needle policy and AIDS, while Ronald Bailey has looked at the progress made (and yet to come) in developing AIDS treatments.