It is estimated that there are 33 million people world wide living with HIV and AIDS. In Britain, there are some 73,000 HIV positive people. These figures would support the position of the companies reported here which are directing their efforts against HIV/AIDS to the developing economies. It is clear that the costs of the disease fall disproportionately on the poor in developing economies. Although HIV remains incurable, the best treatment can reduce its effects to a minimum, prolonging the life and good health of the patient. However, modern treatments rely on a reliable and regular supply anti-retroviral drugs – something that is sadly lacking in parts of Africa and Asia. Hence corporate action to address this issue has to be applauded.
However, it is interesting to note that at least one company – Anglo American – is offering free HIV testing to staff at its London headquarters. This might well be a step that others will follow. Reports suggest that in the UK there were 7,800 newly reported cases of HIV/AIDS in 2006 alone. The fear is that numbers of new cases have not stabilised but are steadily increasing. It seems that this aspect of workplace health may well become an issue of growing importance for companies in Western Europe and the United States.
Corporate champions program
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria announced the start of The Global Fund Corporate Champions Program on January 21 – a new initiative to encourage multinational corporations to invest in the fight against the three diseases. Chevron, the US-based energy company, became the programme’s first member by committing to invest $30m over the next three years in Global Fund-supported projects in Africa and Asia. Each corporate champion is expected to make a financial contribution in the countries where it operates as well as expanding workplace and community projects and investing in local health programmes. The champions will also have to lend management skills and business infrastructure to the “development and implementation of national strategies” to fight the diseases. The commitment must be long-term and the programme will take the form of an integrated public/private partnership. Contact The Global Fund 0041 22 791 17 00 www.theglobalfund.org
Business and Aids
The governments of developing countries and donor organisations must work more closely with the private sector to address the impacts of HIV/Aids according to a report released by Business Action for Africa in December. Business and HIV/AIDS: What have we learnt? summarises the findings of three British members of parliament who travelled to South Africa in September 2007 to see how businesses in the country are responding to the threat of HIV/AIDS in the workplace as well as the communities in which they operate. The report further makes recommendations such as the view that businesses should collect examples of best practice and include this in a voluntary code of conduct with regard to corporate action on HIV/AIDS. This code could then be used by companies operating in high-prevalence countries. The trip was supported by the mining company Anglo American, the brewer SAB Miller and pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme and the aim is to use the South African experience as a case study that other countries, such as China, Russia and India, can learn from. Contact Business Action for Africa www.businessactionforafrica.org
Paint IT red
Dell teamed up with Microsoft in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa by launching (RED) branded personal computers and printers. With each purchase of a (RED) branded Dell PC, Dell and Microsoft will make a combined contribution of up to $80 to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is equivalent to more than six months of life-saving antiretroviral treatment for person living with AIDS. (RED) has already contributed more than $57m to the fund, based on the sale of (RED) products, and has previously signed partnerships with American Express, Apple, Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, Motorola, Hallmark and MTV. Contact Microsoftwww.microsoft.com ; Dell www.dell.co.uk ; (RED) www.joinred.com
- Anglo American, the global mining company, launched a programme of free HIV testing at its London headquarters on December 3. www.angloamerican.co.uk
- The World Bank and Merck, the pharmaceutical company, announced, on December 5, a joint initiative to combat river blindness in 28 African countries. The two organisations will commit $50m to eliminating the preventable disease, which is spread by black flies near riverbanks, and which affects 100m people worldwide. www.merck.com ; www.worldbank.org