Companies Worldwide Fail To Adequately Address HIV/AIDS, Survey Finds
Businesses worldwide are "falling behind" in the fight against HIV/AIDS and leaving a "black hole" in health care and education, according to a survey released Thursday by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health, Reuters/Yahoo! News reports. According to the survey of nearly 9,000 corporate leaders in 104 countries, more than 70% have no HIV/AIDS strategy "of any kind," while only 7% have formal written policies, according to Reuters/Yahoo! News. In addition, although approximately 14,000 people contract HIV each day -- meaning that the pandemic has the "potential to cripple economies and decimate work forces" -- only 14% of surveyed companies had carried out "quantitative HIV/AIDS risk assessments," Reuters/Yahoo! News reports. Approximately 66% of company executives also did not know how to prevent the spread of HIV among their employees (Hirschler, Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/20). More than 65% of the surveyed executives also did not know or could not estimate the HIV prevalence rate within their own work forces (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/20).
Level of Concern
Approximately 16% of executives expect HIV/AIDS to have an effect on their businesses now or in the future, and the overall level of concern about the pandemic has declined over the past year -- in part because of "HIV fatigue" or a "belief" that organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will "come to the rescue," according to Reuters/Yahoo! News. Only in the countries where HIV prevalence rates are above 20% do businesses become "seriously engaged in offering advice and treatment," Reuters/Yahoo! News reports (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/20). Even in sub-Saharan African countries with HIV prevalence rates between 10% and 19%, only about 7% of businesses have enacted formal HIV/AIDS policies. The survey found an even "greater gap" between prevalence rates and companies with formal HIV/AIDS policies in China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Russia -- the "next wave" countries that are expected to have the highest numbers of new HIV cases by 2010, according to AFP/Yahoo! News.
Kate Taylor, director of WEF's Global Health Initiative, said the response from businesses located in the most affected countries is "too little, too late" because of the potential benefits such policies can have, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The survey concludes by recommending that businesses worldwide "better understand" their risk levels and learn management strategies from local good practices, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. A "key priority" for businesses worldwide will be to establish HIV/AIDS policies based on "nondiscrimination and confidentiality," AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 1/20). "As a global community, every level of society needs to be mindful of what they can do to contribute to an effective response to HIV/AIDS," UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Kathleen Cravero said, adding, "We hope more businesses will become proactively involved in issues such as AIDS. We know it is not just socially responsible; it is also a good investment" (WEF release, 1/20). Cravero added that the decline in the level of concern about the pandemic was "alarming" because the workplace is an "essential front in tackling HIV/AIDS" because mobile male workers are the "main conduit for spreading the virus in many societies," according to Reuters/Yahoo! News. "The workplace is a really effective place to get messages across to men and to offer them services," she said, adding, "Any company that has really taken this seriously and reached out ... has not only made a difference for their employees but for an entire community" (Reuters/Yahoo! News, 1/20).
The survey is available online.