Annan Addresses U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Global Health Council
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Calling HIV/AIDS an "unparalleled nightmare," Annan called on business leaders at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Friday to educate their workers about the disease and encourage treatment for HIV-positive employees (Reuters, 6/1). Annan said that the economic repercussions of HIV/AIDS are likely to be "catastrophic," with the infrastructure, services and productive capacity of the "worst affected" countries "facing total collapse." Noting that 42% of U.S. exports go to markets in the developing world, Annan said that "the business community needs to get involved, to protect its bottom line." Stating that American business leaders have "yet to be fully utilized in the campaign against HIV/AIDS," Annan offered several ways in which the business community could help fight the epidemic. He called on employers with workers in the developing world to collaborate with the employees to develop "effective AIDS policies," including prevention education programs. Annan also recommended that employers provide antiretroviral treatment for employees already infected with HIV, adding, "[I]t is now more profitable for companies to treat their HIV-positive employees than to recruit and retrain new ones, as untreated workers die. Indeed, one recent study in Africa showed that treating HIV-positive workers paid for itself up to 10 times over." Annan concluded that as "respected leaders" in their communities, business leaders should offer their "expertise" in public affairs, marketing and human resources, should donate toward prevention and treatment efforts and should link their company names to "a goal of social responsibility" (U.N. release, 5/31).
- Global Health Council: Addressing the GHC's awards banquet, Annan said that improving women's education and financial situations is key to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS in the developing world (Associated Press, 6/1). Stating that "at least" half of all new HIV infections worldwide occur among women, Annan added that poverty, abuse, violence, "coercion by older men" and a lack of information all contribute to the high prevalence rate. "Across all levels of society, we need to see a deep social revolution that transforms relationships between women and men, so that women will be able to take greater control of their lives -- financially as well as physically. And we must encourage men to replace risk-taking behavior with taking responsibility," Annan said (U.N. release, 6/1). At the meeting, Annan also "expressed regret" that Chinese AIDS activist Gao Yaojie was not granted permission by China to attend the ceremony (Kniazkov, Agence France-Presse, 6/1). Gao was due to travel to the United States to receive the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights from the GHC, but was reportedly denied a passport because she was accused of "working for anti-China forces" ( Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/30). Although Annan did not "directly criticiz[e]" China, Annan said women like Gao are "inspiring examples to draw upon" (Agence France-Presse, 6/1).