Powell Tells U.S. Corporate Leaders to Develop AIDS Policies That Fight Stigma in Their Overseas Offices
Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday urged U.S. companies that operate overseas to implement policies to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS do not face discrimination in the workplace, AP/Newsday reports (Gedda, AP/Newsday, 6/24). Speaking at an "Open Forum" conference to corporate leaders and heads of business associations to "exchange experiences, insights and ideas" on how to combat HIV/AIDS, Powell said that the workplace is an "ideal delivery point" for HIV/AIDS care and prevention (Powell speech text, 6/24). Powell said that companies should not "stigmatize" people with HIV/AIDS by not hiring them and added that business leaders should include HIV/AIDS education as a "mandatory" component of employee training (Healy, USA Today, 6/25). "Business can lend their infrastructure, their public relations network, their distribution systems, to help raise AIDS awareness and to distribute vital information," Powell said (Powell speech text, 6/24). "I strongly encourage the CEOs ... to develop AIDS policies suitable for the countries in which your companies operate," he added (AP/Newsday, 6/24). Thomas Coates, director of the AIDS Research Institute at the University of California-San Francisco, proposed that businesses with operations in areas "hard-hit" by HIV/AIDS work to correct the "social inequities and human rights violations" that prevent people from accessing treatment (USA Today, 6/25).
AP/Newsday reports that the Open Forum and Powell's speech are "further evidence" of the priority HIV/AIDS has within the Bush administration. Noting that an average of 14,000 people contract HIV worldwide every day, Powell said that the Bush administration will work to prevent vertical transmission of the virus. For example, the Bush administration last week announced a $500 million initiative to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus in 12 African nations and the Caribbean. According to Powell, it "would literally be criminal if we didn't invest in and help ... break that link in the chain from mother to child." He added that although the Bush administration will "commit all of its resources" toward its role in combating HIV/AIDS, labor organizations, businesses and foundations "all have a role to play" (Powell speech text, 6/24).
A kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of yesterday's meeting is available online.