Business coalitions on AIDS strengthen the private sector response to AIDS in Asia

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Business coalitions on AIDS strengthen the private sector response to AIDS in Asia

23 November 2009

Participants at the second regional meeting of Business coalitions held on Bangkok, Thailand on November 17-18 2009.
Credit: UNAIDS

Business coalitions on AIDS (BCA) have emerged as an effective platform for the private sector to respond to the HIV epidemic and strengthen their corporate social responsibility efforts.

In order to take stock of progress made by BCAs in the Asia Pacific region and to ensure that standards are upheld as services are scaled up by BCAs, UNAIDS, the Asia Pacific Business Coalition (APBCA) and the Asian Business Coalition on AIDS (ABCA) organized a regional meeting of BCAs from the region in Bangkok, Thailand on November 17-18 2009.

"The meeting of business coalitions in the Asia Pacific region has been a tremendous opportunity for the coalitions to learn from each other and find ways to enhance the private sector's contribution in the AIDS response," said Stephen Grant, Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS Chief Executive Officer.

Over twenty participants gathered to discuss key issues around the activities and services offered by BCAs in the region, the challenges and opportunities they face as well as key partnerships and relationships developed with national and international stakeholders. Participants also analyzed the impact and value of BCA, their business models (membership and funding models), organizational structures and governance, and the advocacy work they do.

Strengthening the private sector response to AIDS

Although some companies are already addressing HIV in the workplace, others do not know how or what to do to start mitigating risks. Business coalitions have emerged to fill this gap and provide the private sector with tools and processes needed to effectively address HIV in the workplace and surrounding communities. The comprehensive business responses can be seen in corporate policies for HIV management. Businesses focus on prevention through peer education, provision of antiretroviral treatment and support for affected staff and their dependants.

"People who are at the core of the epidemic include men who are mobile and who practice sex with multiple partners. Many of them are workers who are employed by thousands of businesses and industrial establishments across Asia and the Pacific. Accessing them through well planned workplace programmes is a good way to counter the epidemic and business coalitions are well placed to assume leadership in this area," said Prasada Rao, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and Pacific.

Business responses can start within the workplace and respond beyond to form mature partnerships with business, business associations, and communities as well as governmental authorities to form a private public partnership, which will enhance society’s efforts to combat the epidemic.

The workshop was attended by coalitions from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, PNG, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the regional coalitions (Asia Pacific Business Coalition (APBCA) and the Asian Business Coalition on AIDS (ABCA) as well as private sector representatives from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka. The Asia Pacific Network of people living with HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund, ILO, the Burnet Institute (the leading medical research and public health Institutes in Australia) and the HIV Alliance also participated.

One of the deliverables of the meeting will be a manual designed to help BCAs set priorities and next steps. It will guide BCAs on where to seek technical assistance (and what type) to address hurdles, on how to ensure they promote sustainable programs in support of the national AIDS response and target the most vulnerable communities, etc.

The first established Business coalition on AIDS (BCA) was launched in Thailand in 1993. Today, there are 47 coalitions around the world that have emerged and four regional business coalitions. In most countries in Asia Pacific, BCA now exist in various forms and in different stages of development.

This second regional meeting was a follow up to the 2003 meeting on BCAs which took place in Bali and brought together 55 participants from 11 countries – Cambodia, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam.