gold and rubber

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    Ghana gold workers 'paid in condoms'

    Ashanti is one of Africa's largest gold producers
    A gold-mining company in Ghana says it has managed to reduce Aids and HIV infection rates among its workers by over 75%, by giving staff condoms in their pay packets.

    Ashanti Goldfields says the number of infections at its Obuasi mine fell from 271 in 1998 to 62 last year.

    The mine's human resources manager, Elaine Kwame, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that the scheme had been chosen as the most effective way of getting the Aids prevention message across to all staff.

    Staff are periodically given one condom in their pay packets and Ms Kwame said that some staff had asked for more.

    'Rising profits'

    She said it would be too expensive to hand out free condoms on demand to all 7,000 mine employees.

    "It's all about getting a message to people. Definitely, if we wanted to supply condoms, we may have to do that on a daily basis," she said.

    Female staff get female condoms.

    Miners often live away from their families and so are at particular risk of contracting HIV.

    In South Africa, where HIV rates are far higher than in Ghana, some mining companies have started distributing anti-retroviral drugs to their HIV-positive employees.

    Ashanti, one of Africa's largest gold producers, last week announced a 26% rise in profits, thanks to rising gold prices.

    In 1999, the company almost collapsed after speculating on the future prices of gold.

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