Business Involvement in Global HIV/AIDS Efforts Increasing, Economist Reports
As medical advances against HIV/AIDS have "somewhat stalled" since the development of antiretroviral drugs, "there are at least signs of growing awareness" from the "unexpected quarter" of the business world, the Economist reports. A growing number of companies -- especially those in countries with high HIV/AIDS burdens -- have established policies that offer employees HIV/AIDS education, counseling, and access to testing and treatment, according to the Economist. Global mining company Anglo American, which is based in South Africa, began offering no-cost antiretrovirals to employees living with HIV in 2002, and corporations in other countries and business sectors have since "joined the fray," the Economist reports. More than 220 companies have become members of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and a September study conducted by the organization found that three-quarters of businesses that responded offered information about HIV testing and counseling. The study also found that two-thirds of responding businesses offered testing services and that half provided referral and access to treatment, according to the Economist. Brian Brink, Anglo American's group medical consultant, said that HIV policies need to be extended beyond employees. He said, "We will not beat AIDS as long as we have new infections -- we have to recognize the cross-cutting nature of HIV through society."
However, the Economist reports that extending the services to families and others is "bound to be costly and the business case harder to justify" during the current global economic crisis. Brink said that the benefits of increasing access to HIV/AIDS services could be beneficial to business. He said, "Our investments must translate into future markets and all these potential new markets ... all face serious disease problems that could undermine their growth in the long term" (Economist, 12/18).