Indian Businesses Would Gain From Participating in Early Interventions To Prevent HIV, World Bank Report Says
Private and public sector companies in India have much to gain by participating in early interventions aimed at preventing the spread of HIV, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Bank, PTI/Times of India reports. "Even in countries with overall low HIV prevalence, such as India, the mere cost of treating people living with HIV and AIDS will be a huge economic and social burden to society," the report said, adding, "Early decisive action by companies that reach a large share of the population at risk pays off." The report also noted that HIV/AIDS has a direct effect on a company's profits and productivity by causing absenteeism and staff turnover, higher recruitment and training costs, and increased costs in medical care or insurance coverage and retirement funds.
A significant portion of India's work force is vulnerable to HIV, with the disease primarily affecting young and middle-aged adults at the peak of their productive years, according to the report (PTI/Times of India, 7/25). "Despite the important role that Indian businesses can play in the fight against AIDS and in tackling stigma associated with AIDS among its work force, only a small share of the private sector -- around 70 companies -- are engaged in fighting HIV and AIDS," the report said.
The report cited five case studies as examples of approaches that private- and public-sector businesses in India have used to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The companies cited in the studies include Reliance Industries, Transport Corporation of India, Delhi Metro Rail, DCM Shriram Consolidated and Hindustan Lever. According to Shanthi Divakaran -- World Bank HIV/AIDS coordinator for the South Asia Finance and Private Sector unit and a report author -- the case studies "illustrate the importance of integrating multiple stakeholders" in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition, she said the studies "highlight the growing investment of businesses in that fight -- an investment that recognizes their vulnerability to the economic and social impact of the epidemic. And they show that businesses are ready to demonstrate their social responsibility by tackling HIV and AIDS through their networks."
The heterogeneous nature of India's HIV/AIDS epidemic requires it to be tackled through multiple strategies, the report said. However, all companies can play a role in the fight against the disease by reducing stigma; pursuing high-level advocacy efforts; drafting HIV guidelines for the workplace; and providing referrals for counseling and testing, the report said. Although the Indian government has revised its HIV/AIDS caseload estimates since the report was written, the bank said that there is no room for complacency in the fight against the disease. According to the report, the sexual networks of some high-risk groups are "known to be wide and interdigitated, with the potential to spread HIV among the wider community." It added that it is "clear that the widest participation of the government and society-at-large is essential to deal with the problem effectively" (Press Trust of India, 7/25).