Corporate Council on Africa Releases Recommendations for Businesses, U.S. Government on Fighting HIV/AIDS in Public, Private Sectors
The Corporate Council on Africa, a not-for-profit group of more than 180 businesses that promotes economic and commercial relationships between American and African corporations, organizations and individuals, on Friday released a list of recommendations to businesses and government officials on how to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa in the public and private sectors. The report, which was compiled by the CCA's Task Force on HIV/AIDS, was slated to be released last month but was delayed due to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. CCA Chair Maurice Tempelsman said that although the Sept. 11 attacks have been the focus of much attention, governments and corporations must work to ensure that HIV/AIDS will "remain at the forefront" of action in the future. At a press conference on Friday, council members stated that in addition to being a humanitarian, public health and security issue, HIV/AIDS is also a business matter because it stands to dramatically affect business operations in Africa. Task Force Co-Chair Dr. Don Wilson said that the panel's report outlines "appropriate" responses to HIV/AIDS for businesses and governments. "An aggressive and early response [to HIV/AIDS] by corporations will be cost-effective in the long term and will create a competitive advantage," Wilson said. Task Force Co-Chair Joe Sills added that the report's recommendations could be adopted not only in Africa but in other regions, such as Asia, where HIV/AIDS presents a threat to business and public health (Meredith McGroarty, Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/15).
Suggestions for Businesses
The report outlines a number of policies that businesses could adopt to combat HIV/AIDS in the workforce and beyond. The recommendations include the following:
- CEOs and board members should demonstrate "strong and committed leadership" on the issue of HIV/AIDS and "must be involved and committed to programs of education, prevention, outreach and care" for HIV-positive employees.
- Companies should develop a "multi-pronged approach" to fighting HIV/AIDS that includes "go[ing] beyond" the workplace to address familial and community issues. Outreach programs should include all members of the community and "should not shun ... commercial sex workers, churches, traditional healers and other members of the community."
- Companies should provide HIV testing but must also ensure that such testing is voluntary and that employees' medical records are kept confidential and released only with written permission.
- Businesses should develop anti-AIDS initiatives that "match the company's core business skills and technical expertise." The report notes that, for example, production plants have "an excellent opportunity to provide education and resources for workers and families in the communities where they operate," while pharmaceutical companies can furnish discounted medicines and help distribute AIDS drugs to the population.
- Partnerships should be formed with local communities, nongovernmental organizations, governments "at all levels" and other corporations.
- Companies should focus on developing "cost effective and simple" policies that can be carried over a long period of time. For example, businesses could provide certain medicines to prevent opportunistic infections or nevirapine to prevent vertical transmission of HIV.
- Businesses should establish a system of peer counselors to help HIV-positive workers and other employees who are seeking information about the disease. The peer counselors should be subject to "professional supervision."
- A variety of people, especially those with HIV/AIDS, should be involved in the development and monitoring of a company's HIV/AIDS business plan.
- Companies should "demonstrate and promulgate the business costs and benefits" and the humanitarian benefits of HIV/AIDS education and prevention policies.
Recommendations for Government
The report also includes a list of suggestions for the U.S. government, such as those listed below:
- The president should take a "visible and continuing leadership role in the international" fight against HIV/AIDS.
- AIDS policy should be handled within the Office of the President, and the National Security Council should continue to work on HIV/AIDS issues. The administration should "[r]ecognize and act on the fact that HIV/AIDS is not just a public health issue, but also one that now and in the future is a matter of national security," the report states.
- The U.S. government should allocate "significant" resources toward fighting HIV/AIDS through "generous support" of the U.N. Global AIDS and Health Fund and the "valuable work" of USAID, the CDC and other government agencies.
- The government should "work closely" with pharmaceutical firms to increase access to medicines in developing nations. Although the government should work with drug companies to lower prices of AIDS drugs, it should also aim to ensure that research and development is not "curtailed due to international trade rules."
- Partnerships should be formed between the government and other "concerned umbrella organizations in the private sector," such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to develop a "strategic vision for future U.S. policy that would lead to a firm multi-year plan with concrete priorities and goals" ("Report on the Findings of the Corporate Council on Africa's Task Force on HIV/AIDS," October 2001).