Christian Science Monitor Examines Growing Impact of Private Sector on Botswana’s Anti-AIDS Efforts
The Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday examined the growing movement among small and mid-sized businesses in Botswana to address HIV/AIDS, an effort that is "injecting fresh business-minded practicality into the often contentious global AIDS fight" (McLaughlin/Hauck, Christian Science Monitor, 11/12). Approximately 36% of Botswana's 1.6 million people are HIV-positive. By 2010, more than 50% of the country's children will be AIDS orphans, and the average life expectancy will have fallen from 47 years to 27 years (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/10). In 2000, the diamond company Debswana, a joint venture between Botswana's government and DeBeers, began requiring its contractors and suppliers to implement HIV/AIDS policies. The company conducts monthly audits to ensure compliance and requires attendance at weekly meetings where AIDS is often discussed. At first, many companies implemented AIDS policies only to secure contracts from Debswana, but they now recognize the value in the programs and are requiring their subcontractors to implement similar policies. Getting smaller businesses to implement HIV/AIDS programs could have a "big impact" on the country's population, the Monitor reports. For example, although Debswana employs only 6,300 people, the country's small- and medium-sized businesses employ more than 77,000 employees. The Botswana-based African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership -- an alliance between the Botswana government, drug maker Merck and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- has given a $400,000 grant to jump-start the effort to get small firms involved in anti-AIDS efforts. However, "there's still much to do," as cultural beliefs and stigma continue to hamper the fight against AIDS, the Monitor reports (Christian Science Monitor, 11/12).
The role of business in the fight against AIDS is scheduled to be discussed on Wednesday at a one-day conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies HIV/AIDS Task Force. A webcast of the conference, titled "Botswana's Strategy to Combat HIV/AIDS: Lessons for Africa and President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief," will be available online on Nov. 14.
Additional information on AIDS in Botswana is available online through kaisernetwork.org's Issue Spotlight on HIV/AIDS.