Australia, Fiji Establish Coalition To Address Impact of HIV/AIDS on Business
The Fiji Australia Business Council and UNAIDS on Monday agreed to a partnership under which they will develop a business coalition in Fiji to strengthen the private sector's response to HIV/AIDS, the Fiji Times reports (Fiji Times, 7/22). According to FABC President Caz Tebbutt Dennis, the business coalition will help companies develop policies such as voluntary HIV/AIDS testing among workers. According to Tebbutt Dennis, the economic loss from HIV/AIDS in Asia is about $10 billion and could increase to $24 billion in the next few years if adequate steps are not taken to address the disease (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 7/21).
Steven Vete, development subregional coordinator for UNAIDS' Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV, said, "The involvement of private sector leaders is crucial if we are to succeed in reversing the tide of HIV in the Pacific. It is crucial for a number of reasons: At the global level, nine out of 10 people living with HIV are adults in their most productive years. Two out of three people living with HIV go to work every day. In the Pacific, the majority of the people infected with HIV are between 15 and 44 years, meaning the loss of breadwinner is devastating for the family" (Fiji Times, 7/22).
Dennis added, "HIV and AIDS is an issue for business worldwide, not just because there is an expected corporate social responsibility aspect to this global epidemic and a need for business leadership, but because HIV and AIDS affects the most important asset of all business -- work force" (Fiji Times, 7/21).
According to PACNews, UNAIDS has provided assistance to the Training Productivity Authority of Fiji to develop a training course to offer to businesses. In addition, the International Labour Organization is working with Fiji's Tripartite Forum on implementing the Employment Relation Promulgation, which makes it compulsory for employees to implement HIV programs in the workplace (PACNews, 7/21).
Also under the agreement, Australia will spend 188 million Australian dollars, or about $183 million, on programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in 2008 and 2009. Australia's HIV Ambassador Murray Proctor said Australia is a strong advocate for business involvement in curbing the impact of HIV/AIDS. According to the Fiji Times, there are 256 confirmed cases of HIV in the country, up from 182 in December 2004 (Fiji Times, 7/22).