HIV/AIDS: A Growing Concern to Business

David E. Bloom, Lakshmi Reddy Bloom, Paul De Lay, Fiona Paua, Richard Samans & Mark Weston

Published: December 2007

Recent years have seen calls for the private sector to become more involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Business has valuable skills and other resources that could assist government and civil society efforts, and some firms (although by no means all) also have strong reasons for involvement. HIV/AIDS hits hardest the working-age individuals who make up the bulk of the private sector’s workforce and consumer base. As well as a moral case for action, deflecting the virus's impacts on employees and economies can avert business costs and strengthen corporate reputations. This article presents some of the key arguments for business action on HIV/AIDS and provides examples of where business has less reason to be concerned about the impact of the epidemic in specific situations. It also outlines findings from the World Economic Forum's 2006 Executive Opinion Survey, which polls the views of over 11,000 business leaders in 125 countries. It finds a small proportion of firms reporting that the virus is seriously affecting their operations, with the greatest effects felt in Sub-Saharan Africa. A much larger proportion of firms believe the virus will affect them in the next five years. Despite this growing worldwide concern, it is primarily companies in the hardest-hit countries that have developed policies to cope with the threat. It is noteworthy that most firms are basing their action or inaction on a subjective perception of the risk posed by HIV/AIDS, rather than on a formal risk assessment.

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