Successfully achieving the National HIV/AIDS Strategy's aggressive goals depends not only on Federal leadership, but also on new investments and new partnerships from all parts of society, including the private sector. As my colleague Melody Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Adviser, noted in a prior post, we know that some of our biggest successes in fighting HIV/AIDS have come about because of private sector initiatives, so we have called on businesses and foundations to provide that next level of leadership by stepping up their efforts in a few targeted areas. Many have responded, from hairdressers and L'Oreal to the Here Media and LOGO TV, two of the world's largest media companies reaching the gay community.
Another significant example unfolded earlier this year when Levi Strauss & Co. announced new Terms of Engagement for its global supply chain to help improve the lives of workers in factories around the world. Under the new approach, the company will require contract factories to help make employees' lives better by supporting programs for their workers that align with UN Millennium Development goals. These include priorities such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, improving maternal and child health**, and fighting HIV/AIDS** and other diseases, among others. The move by Levi Strauss & Co. is a reminder of the critically important roles that the private sector plays in addressing critical challenges faced domestically and abroad.
What Businesses of All Sizes Can Do
Achieving the Strategy's goals of reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, and reducing health disparities, will require the support of businesses of all sizes. While Levi's efforts are laudable for their global impact, so, too, are the efforts of small "mom and pop" businesses and businesses of all sizes in between. In addition to the targeted areas of action identified in Melody's post, the private sector can contribute to efforts underway across the nation to achieve the Strategy's goals by:
- Lending financial and volunteer support to a local AIDS service organization, many of which are facing challenges in meeting the continuing demand for services in an environment of constrained resources.
- Providing education to employees designed to prevent HIV-related stigma and discrimination and raise awareness about HIV risk reduction.
- Ensuring that their HR policies make the workplace friendly for persons with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. Due to medical breakthroughs, many people with HIV continue to work or seek employment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six large U.S. worksites (more than 50 employees) and one in 16 small U.S. worksites (fewer than 50 employees) have experienced an employee with HIV/AIDS.
- Encouraging and fostering collaboration among other business and labor organizations to broaden the depth and breadth of support for HIV activities in the community.
We hope that many interested businesses will step forward and work together with Federal, state and local governments to help end the HIV epidemic.
What is your business doing to address HIV/AIDS in your community? What opportunities do you see for businesses to support the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.
For other ideas on what businesses can do and some related resources, visit CDC's Business Responds to AIDS web site. The Business Responds to AIDS/Labor Responds to AIDS (BRTA/LRTA) program is a public/private partnership that strategically promotes and assists the involvement of business and labor in HIV prevention, awareness and policies in the workplace to promote the development of comprehensive workplace HIV/AIDS programs.
James Albino is a senior program manager at the Office of National AIDS Policy.