Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Reuters Examines How Businesses in India Attempt To Define Role in HIV/AIDS Control
Reuters on Thursday examined how businesses in India are trying to "work out their role" in HIV prevention and treatment (Allen, Reuters, 7/14). According to the "2006 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic" released in May by UNAIDS, India has overtaken South Africa as the country with the highest number of HIV-positive people, with 5.7 million people living with the virus, compared with 5.5 million in South Africa. India's National AIDS Control Organization in a report released in April said there were 72,000 new reported HIV cases in India in 2005, increasing the total number of HIV-positive adults living in the country to about 5.2 million. According to Karen Stanecki of UNAIDS, because of India's population of 1.1 billion -- compared with South Africa's 44 million -- the country's HIV prevalence still is considered low (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/5). Despite the high number of HIV-positive people in India, the country's HIV prevalence is less than 1%, Reuters reports. According to some advocates, this has "lulled the many businesses into a false sense of security," and only a few companies are actively tackling the issue, Reuters reports. Companies in the country are unsure about how much money they should spend on HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs or how investments in HIV prevention programs will save them money in the future, according to Reuters. According to the International Labour Organization, the cost of treating one HIV-positive employee in India with antiretroviral drugs is about $431 annually, which does not include the costs of absenteeism and treating opportunistic infections. The organization estimates that later intervention is 3.5 to 7.5 times as costly as prevention. Running effective HIV prevention programs can be challenging for companies that hire migrant workers on a contractual basis, Reuters reports. "A company can have a superb policy for its 300 or 400 core staff, but if it doesn't trickle down to their informal workforce then it's not reaching the people who really need it," Denis Broun, UNAIDS representative for India, said. The Indian Business Trust for HIV/AIDS is urging companies to educate employees not to discriminate against people living with the virus. "Business has to play a leadership role," Shefali Chaturvedi, director of the trust, said, adding, "They must look at it as an issue which, given the way the situation is going, it is likely to affect their own productivity." About 500 businesses so far have adopted the trust's antidiscrimination HIV/AIDS policy (Reuters, 7/14).
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