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International News

Asia: Private Sector Must Do More to Fight AIDS, Business Group Says

February 28, 2003

Friday in Bangkok, international business leaders said Asia could be hit by the same kind of catastrophic AIDS epidemic as Africa, and they called on the world's business sector to help fight the disease.

"Every day, three times as many people die of HIV as died on Sept. 11 in New York City and at the Pentagon," said Richard Holbrooke, chair of the Global Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS. "Businesses have not scratched the surface of what they can do." A board member of several corporations and the US ambassador to the UN under President Bill Clinton, Holbrooke called the disease "the worst problem in the world today."

Holbrooke said the world can learn from Thailand, which has used education to bring down HIV infection rates. An estimated 7.2 million people in Asia have HIV/AIDS, compared to 29.4 million in sub-Saharan Africa, according to UN statistics from late 2002.

Asia's current HIV/AIDS problem is just the "tip of the iceberg," and the continent could be heading for the same epidemic levels now plaguing Africa, said Bill Black, co-founder and former chair of the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS.

Businesses must help, Holbrooke said, because HIV/AIDS is "too big a problem for governments alone." Companies can help, Holbrooke said, by educating employees and others, providing testing and treatment for employees, and encouraging other companies to participate.

Black, however, was less optimistic: "The true reality is that business is only going to respond to this issue when it becomes a financial issue."

Both men were speaking on the eve of the Asia Society's 31st Williamsburg Conference, which brings together 50 leading opinion makers from the Asia-Pacific region to speak privately in small forums on the leading issues of the day. For the first time this year, the conference includes a session on HIV/AIDS.

Back to other CDC news for February 28, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
02.28.03; Grant Peck

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.