Multinational Businesses Working in Africa Urged to Respond to HIV/AIDS Epidemic
UNAIDS Senior Policy Adviser Dr. Julia Cleves, speaking in London at the Commonwealth Business Forum, urged business leaders to "take a leadership role" in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, BBC News reports. Although Cleves "praised" Anglo American, Standard Chartered Bank and Ford as the "select few" international firms that have taken action against HIV/AIDS, she said that most large businesses "do not regard AIDS as their problem." She added that only a "tiny minority" of businesses are "doing something" to deal with the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. Of approximately 230 Nigerian manufacturing businesses recently surveyed, less than half said that HIV/AIDS was a "management concern." According to Cleves, some firms avoid giving HIV-positive workers sick leave by "outsourcing" them to other companies or avoid the "increased labor costs" associated with HIV-positive workers by hiring HIV-negative workers to replace them. "That just passes the real costs on to the government, but somebody has to pay, and AIDS is everybody's business," Cleves said. Cleves added that there are both ethical and business reasons for supporting HIV-positive workers. Standard Chartered Bank estimated that 10% of its African workforce is out sick at any given time due to AIDS-related illnesses, and helping workers pay for HIV/AIDS treatments could reduce the amount of time an employee is sick (BBC News, 9/24). Last month, mining firm Gold Fields launched a new program offering antiretroviral treatment to its HIV-positive employees in South Africa, and mining conglomerate Anglo American announced that it would provide antiretroviral treatment to all of its HIV-positive employees in Southern Africa who are not already receiving treatment under current medical plans (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/4). Brian Brink, senior vice president at Anglo American, said, "Business must take a leadership role in getting on with the job of dealing with HIV/AIDS." However, Brink added that large business firms could not "foot the whole bill alone" without the financial support of the government (BBC News, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.