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Businesses pledge
more help to fight AIDS

Businesses pledge
more help to fight AIDS

Four leading companies pledged to do more in the fight against AIDS in Africa this week, in a move designed to spur other corporations into action.

The initiatives come on the heels of rock star Bono's "Red" scheme, under which companies with global brands--from credit cards to clothing--agree to channel a portion of profits to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Executives and policymakers are attending a Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS meeting at Reuters Group headquarters in London to discuss ways to tackle the pandemic, which has already killed 25 million people.

A key objective is finding new ways to mobilize resources for the Global Fund, which provides lifesaving medicines and money for HIV prevention programs to developing countries.

Standard Chartered, which has extensive banking operations in Africa, said it was offering a second staff to help countries manage HIV projects more efficiently.

International consultancy Accenture is also providing management expertise, while Nike Foundation and Becton Dickinson are each giving $200,000 for support programs.

Companies around the world are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of AIDS, according to a survey in January by the World Economic Forum, which found that 46% of them expected it to affect their operations in the next five years.

With an estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV worldwide and a record 4.9 million new infections last year, the disease has the potential to cripple economies and decimate workforces, hitting the bottom line of many businesses.

Standard Chartered, for example, calculates that more than 10% of its Kenyan employees are off work every day as a result of AIDS, either because they are sick, caring for relatives, or attending a funeral. (Reuters)

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