|The Business Response to HIV/AIDS: Innovation & Partnership (UNAIDS, 1997, 60 p.)|
|Examples of Company Actions on HIV/AIDS|
A. THE ORGANISATION
The Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS was launched in 1994 as a non-profit organisation. It was created by businesses with the support of the Thailand Ministry of Public Health and WHO. The coalition's mission is to: "... mobilise the business community to respond effectively to the problems posed by the AIDS epidemic through the adoption of coherent workplace policies and education." 1
1 Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS brochure.
The coalition's primary role is member support. Members include multinationals and local companies, some of which pay a modest associate member subscription only, to ensure they are not excluded. Subscriptions, along with private contributions and grants, fund a small team of professionals who work with member companies on the issues.
The coalition is a single-issue organisation, created specifically to provide leadership in the business community on HIV/AIDS prevention and education among Thailand's private-sector workforce. As a result, it has been able to establish itself rapidly and to create benchmarks for performance that are influencing a wide spectrum of business thinking on the issues.
B. REASONS FOR ACTION ON HIV/AIDS
The Thailand Ministry of Public Health has tracked the HIV seroprevalence among pregnant women in urban areas since June 1991. All regions have seen growth in the number of cases, with the highest levels in the north of the country, at about 3% of that population group in 1995. In the north in 1994, about 5% of young men called for military service were HIV-positive, while female commercial sex workers showed levels as high as 45%.
The Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS has said of the trends in infection rates: "Based on current estimates of people infected with the HIV virus [sic], it is projected that there may be 16,000-30,000 HIV infected persons developing AIDS annually during 1993-1997 (source: Ministry of Public Health). If the HIV/AIDS epidemic's rate of growth is not halted soon, its impact on the commercial sectors will be devastating. Over one-third of deaths among workers may result from HIV/AIDS by the end of the decade.
"The business community must deal with the issues of HIV/AIDS in the workplace now if they are to avoid problems of fear, poor morale, discrimination, and low productivity in their companies in the future. Our labour force will also be affected, our consumer buying power will diminish, and the overall viability of our businesses will threaten our commercial livelihoods not to mention our families, our communities and our country." 2
A Thai government study calculating the direct and indirect costs of HIV/AIDS to the country estimates a rise from US$ 97 million in 1991 to around US$ 1.2 billion in the year 2000 on low infection and cost assumptions, and as high as US$ 2.2 billion using high infection and cost projections.3 Such costs will seriously reduce the government's budget and the nation's savings rate, and major economic growth sectors including tourism and inward investment could be slowed.
3 From p 113 of AIDS in the World II, edited by Jonathan Mann and Daniel Tarantola, Oxford University Press, 1996.
The benefits of companies working together include shared information, pooled resources, better management of public relations and a critical mass of support for action within the business community. In addition, the public and non-profit sectors have a "representative" partner to talk with about the issues, rather than needing to approach each company individually.
C. EXAMPLE ACTIONS
The level of support that the coalition gives a company depends on the level of membership the company has opted for. All members can use three services:
1. Training course for human resource staff and personnel managers on HIV/AIDS in the workplace. This full-day course deals with understanding HIV/AIDS, developing a coherent AIDS policy, and designing and implementing an employee education programme.
2. Manual on HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The bilingual manual provides similar information to that covered in the one-day training course and lists resources for managers, including sources of more information on AIDS, and answers to frequently asked questions on the disease.
3. Executive briefings for managers, to obtain their commitment to the coalition's objectives.
The coalition gives its full members support in other ways also. It offers consulting services for companies seeking to develop a tailored HIV/AIDS education and prevention programme, and will also arrange and conduct in-house employee training on request. The coalition's Workplace Resource Center provides members with comprehensive references and referral services to organisations and sources concerning AIDS policies, legal issues, educational materials and service providers; in addition, companies can subscribe to a quarterly newsletter. Companies also have the right to use the coalition's name and logo in their advertising and promotion; likewise, the coalition may mention member companies' names in its publications and publicity. The coalition has also shared its materials and experiences with other business organisations in the region such as Philippines Business for Social Progress which is developing an HIV/AIDS initiative for companies in the Philippines.
Contact: Dr Pramualrantana
Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS
270 Raintree Office Garden
2nd Floor, D2 Building
Soi Japanese School, Rama 9 Road
Bangkapi, Bangkok 10310
Tel: 66 2 719 6450/52
Fax: 66 2 719 6453