Fifteen years ago, an HIV diagnosis was nothing short of a death sentence, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Since that time, scientific and public health advances around prevention and treatment have transformed HIV/AIDS from a fatal diagnosis into a chronic, manageable condition.
Moreover, remarkable civil society and political mobilization has ensured that medical advances reach those who need them most. For example, PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and other global leaders have helped millions of people receive access to HIV treatment. In low- and middle-income countries, half of those eligible to receive HIV treatment, or 6.6 million people, are getting it, according to UNAIDS. Just a few years ago, this would have seemed an impossible dream.
The HIV success story is fueled by the global community galvanizing around this issue. The end result: millions of lives have been saved. The HIV mobilization effort has been multi-sectoral, with business playing a key role, for the first time, in addressing a global public health crisis.
Still, much remains to be done. Critical issues today include accelerating HIV progress in an era of decreasing resources and a global shift away from “disease-specific” approaches to health, eliminating new HIV infections in children and reducing HIV-related TB deaths.
Why GBCHealth Focuses on HIV
In the early days of the epidemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, high rates of HIV were common in industries like mining. Companies mounted prevention and education programs to protect the health and productivity of their workforces. Workplace programs became effective vehicles to not only promote HIV prevention but also to ensure access to treatment, which was rarely available via the public sector. Because HIV is a chronic disease requiring daily management, the workplace is an ideal setting to ensure ongoing treatment adherence.
Recognizing the link between the workplace and community, many companies operating in low-resource settings choose to support community-based HIV programs, often as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or social investment strategy. They often co-invest in community programs, in partnership with major donors and multilateral agencies. In addition, much of HIV prevention is tied to behavior change and awareness-raising, an area where the private sector has core skills and marketing expertise. The private sector also plays a key role in combatting HIV stigma and discrimination – which prevent people from seeking testing and treatment -- through addressing workplace policies and culture and through business advocacy and leadership.
Finally, businesses committed to the long-term economic growth and development of a region understand that investing in women’s education, health and economic empowerment is essential. In sub-Saharan Africa, the HIV epidemic disproportionately impacts women. Here, the two issues go hand-in-hand.
GBCHealth’s history is deeply rooted in HIV. The organization was created in 2001 with the sole purpose of galvanizing and coordinating the business fight against this exploding epidemic.
How GBCHealth Companies Make a Difference
GBCHealth member companies can take pride in the essential role they have played in changing the course of HIV/AIDS. What’s more, business action on HIV has paved the way for corporate engagement on other global health issues. Leading companies with a long commitment to HIV include Chevron, which has committed $55 million to the Global Fund, Levi Strauss & Co., Coca-Cola and the mining company Anglo American, the largest private sector provider of ARVs, with some 4,800 employees on company-supplied drugs as of May 2012.
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