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Indian Inc not proactive to HIV/AIDS threat: study

India is among those countries where corporate bodies are by and large are not proactive vis-a-vis the threat of HIV/AIDS, says a global study.

'The private sector is a vital part of any cross-cutting //social partnership against AIDS,' the study states, underlining that 'continued action is therefore needed to convince companies of the role they can play in combating HIV/AIDS - and the rewards they will garner by playing it'.

The World Economic Forum's 2005 Global Health Initiative (GHI) 'Business and HIV/AIDS' says in its report that just seven percent of Indian companies expect any serious impact of HIV/AIDS on their operations. Another 18 percent expect some impact while 80 percent do not expect any impact.

The study is based on the responses of over 10,000 firm executives in 117 countries, including about 100 in India.

The report, authored by David E. Bloom, professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, had survey inputs from The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).

'Business is a powerful actor in all countries with serious HIV/AIDS epidemics. The private sector as a whole is vulnerable to the macroeconomic consequences of the epidemic, while individual businesses face potentially serious impacts on their employees and markets,' it says.

'However, as this report shows, with some exceptions the private sector has yet to adopt a widespread leadership role in the response to HIV/AIDS.'

India has the highest number of HIV infections—estimated to be about 5.1 million—than any other country, barring South Africa.

'Although some businesses offer examples of best practice, they many lack the knowledge, will and capacity to respond effectively to the epidemic,' it states.

The study found that while some businesses have been successful in actually assessing the risk of HIV/AIDS to their organization and then putting formal policies in place, most ha ve not been serious in the implementation.

'Unfortunately, many firms do one or the other of these steps, rarely combining the two, which may be leading to weakened, or at worst, ineffective HIV/AIDS policies,' said Bloom.

This assessment is true for Indian corporate bodies surveyed, with 27 percent expecting serious impact of HIV/AIDS in the next five years and only 11 percent having a specific written policy to combat it.

About 31 percent reported having an informal policy while 52 percent had no policy to face the expected challenge.

Informal response

The report says that though 'South Asian and Southeast Asian firms report increasing concern over the effects of HIV/AIDS ... and a relatively high proportion of respondent firms have policies to combat the disease, there is a growing tendency towards informal rather than formal responses'.

Of the 42 Indian of the total 2,221 companies surveyed worldwide, 76 percent in India claimed to have a prevention program, while only 29 percent have provision for any voluntary testing against the global average of 33 percent.

In 50 percent of cases there was no provision for voluntary testing, 45 percent had no condoms program and 67 percent no treatment program.

What is more discouraging is that 74 percent of the Indian companies revealed they had no anti-discrimination policy for protecting the interests of HIV/AIDS infected workers.

On the positive side, 14 percent had an active policy to protect workers, with 10 percent ensuring access to anti-retroviral treatment, 19 percent to promotion of condom usage and 29 percent providing voluntary testing facilities.

Source - IAS

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