Russian, Ukrainian Businesses at Summit Commit To Fighting AIDS
More than 300 Russian, Ukrainian and international business, union and health care leaders in Moscow on Tuesday discussed the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the region's economy during the first Transatlantic Business and Labor Summit on AIDS (Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS release, 3/30). Currently, Russia has 257,000 reported HIV cases, although Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Russian Health Ministry's AIDS Prevention and Treatment Center, has said that the actual number of HIV cases could be between 700,000 and 1.5 million. Ukraine has recorded 68,000 HIV cases, but officials estimate that the number could be as high as 500,000. A recent United Nations Development Programme report said Russia, Ukraine and Estonia are facing increasing growth rates in new HIV infections that are among the highest in the world (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/18). Participants at the summit -- sponsored by Transatlantic Partners Against AIDS, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and the Ukrainian League of Industrialists -- endorsed a "Members Protocol" for the Transatlantic Business and Labor Taskforce on AIDS, which calls on business and labor leaders to commit to the fight against AIDS and implement workplace HIV/AIDS education programs. In addition, the group committed to "pursu[ing] non-discriminatory policies in the workplace" and supporting community HIV prevention programs (TPAA release, 3/30). "The business community must play an important role in fighting the virus in Russia and in other countries," Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs President Arkady Volsky said, adding, "Business people must contribute to the development and implementation of prophylactic strategies" (RIAN/Pravda.ru, 3/30). TPAA President John Tedstrom said, "The only question is whether the companies will be responsive to an epidemic that will have already attacked their work forces and their communities, or whether they will be proactive and educate employees and their families on ways to stay healthy," according to the Moscow Times.
Some companies already have begun programs to help combat the epidemic, the Moscow Times reports. For example, Russian company Gazprom-Media has said it will launch an HIV/AIDS education campaign that is expected to be the largest awareness campaign ever conducted by a Russian company (Walters, Moscow Times, 4/1). The proposed coordinated mass-media public education campaign is part of the Global Media AIDS Initiative (Campaign release, 4/1). The initiative is an alliance between the United Nations and the media that was generated through a partnership between UNAIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most participating companies have pledged to use public service announcements, expanded news coverage and documentaries to educate the public about the AIDS epidemic. Many participants agreed to incorporate AIDS-related stories into entertainment programs, recruit other media outlets to join the campaign and provide their campaign materials at no cost to other broadcast outlets. Gazprom-Media CEO Alexander Dybal said that the company's television and radio stations will use PSAs and popular programs to disseminate education messages and will train staff to better cover HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16). The campaign, which is set to begin in September 2004 and continue for an initial two-year period, is being organized by TPAA (Campaign release, 3/30). Natalya Katsap, a program associate with TPAA, said that the campaign is modeled after Viacom's "KNOW HIV/AIDS" awareness campaign. Prof-Media and Russia Online also have agreed to be involved in the campaign (Moscow Times, 4/1).