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HIV/AIDS in the Workplace




The spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide, and the growing number of people affected, makes it very likely that few, if any, global companies will escape its impact. As the pandemic progresses, an ever-wider sphere of business operations is being touched by the disease. Although Africa and Asia have been the hardest hit, every continent has seen significant consequences due to HIV/AIDS. Estimates by the World Bank suggest that the macroeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS may reduce the growth of national income by up to a third in countries where the prevalence among adults is 10 percent. Additionally, rates of HIV infection worldwide are highest for the young and for women, who are major contributors to the workforce. For all of these reasons, businesses with operations or suppliers in countries hard hit by HIV/AIDS are looking for more aggressive ways to address the disease’ impact on their workforce and operations. Forward-thinking companies in other countries are also taking proactive steps to address HIV/AIDS issues before the impact to their workforce becomes greater.

When HIV/AIDS emerged as a significant workplace issue in the 1980s, companies responded by developing policies and programs designed to educate employees about HIV/AIDS, prevent discriminatory behavior, support ill employees, and contribute to the general fight against the disease. Social considerations were originally the principal motivating force for business response to HIV/AIDS, but economic factors are now driving efforts to address the pandemic. Now, two decades later, as the pandemic progresses, the issues for businesses impacted by HIV/AIDS are more global and much more complex.

Companies are responding to the HIV/AIDS challenge in a variety of ways. Some of the approaches companies are taking include: (1) developing clear workplace policies and programs; (2) undertaking extensive prevention and education efforts within their own operations; (3) conducting prevalence studies and surveys to help them understand the long-term benefits of investing in more costly, comprehensive efforts; (4) providing treatment including antiretroviral (ARV) therapy to employees; (5) developing partnerships and collaborations with government, NGOs, academic and medical institutions, multilateral organizations, business associations, and other related resources that can complement their programs and enhance their ability to fight HIV/AIDS in the workforce and community; and (6) building strong business cases for their efforts, focusing on quantitative costs (including health costs, absenteeism, and recruitment), and qualitative costs (such as employee morale, reputation damage and others).


Business Importance

There is significant quantitative and qualitative data to suggest that companies working to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace experience a variety of direct and indirect bottom-line benefits. Some of these include:

  • Unhampered Growth in Markets: Emerging signs of long-term, negative economic effects of HIV/AIDS suggest that business opportunities for growth in many areas of the world may be constrained if steps to harness the pandemic are not taken. Company-sponsored HIV/AIDS prevention programs in workplaces and local communities help reduce the accumulated costs and extent of the pandemic In addition, participation in coalitions or partnerships and other efforts designed to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS lends wealth, power, and influence to efforts designed to achieve significant advances in prevention and care at national levels.
  • Increased Productivity: There are varying estimates about the loss of productivity each year in the global economy due to the absence of individuals with HIV/AIDS from the workforce, but all of them estimate that the economic costs are very significant. This can be mitigated by company efforts to pursue policies and practices focused on reducing the workplace incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that some US companies have estimated costs between $3500 and $6000 per year for each worker with HIV/AIDS. The Corporate Council on Africa estimates that in parts of Southern Africa, AIDS-related illness and death has reduced the workforce by as much as 20%. Productivity is also negatively affected by such things as increased absenteeism, the loss of skilled employees, the need to invest in training replacements, and declining morale.
  • Decreased Costs of Health Care and Other Employee Benefits: The health-care and related costs incurred by companies having employees with HIV/AIDS can be a significant burden, particularly in areas where incidence of the disease is high. A Harvard University survey of companies in Durban, South Africa concluded that companies may need to set aside as much as 7 5 percent of their annual payroll to fund losses incurred by the disease. Company-generated HIV/AIDS training and education for employees can contribute to the reduced prevalence of HIV and to reducing long-term health costs. Studies of South African firms indicate that cost savings due to investment in prevention and education programs are as high as 3.5 to 7.5 times the cost of intervention Insurance companies are starting to recognize this. In Thailand, companies that promote HIV/AIDS awareness among their employees will qualify for discounts of 5-10 percent on group insurance policies provided by American International Assurance. Companies that have the resources to supply counseling and health care services to employees with HIV/AIDS can also reduce the costs of the illness Volkswagen Brazil provides access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), regular viral load tests, and referral to specialist hospitals and home care treatments As a result, rates of hospitalization dropped by 90 percent and HIV/AIDS-related costs were reduced 40 percent.
  • Reduced Employer Liability: Companies can reduce their risk of legal liability in many countries by implementing a formal HIV/AIDS policy that prohibits discriminatory behavior, providing training and education to reinforce this policy, and taking steps to ensure that accommodations for employees with HIV/AIDS Studies also find that managers are more likely to support employees living with HIV and to comply with workplace laws relating to employees with HIV if there is an explicit policy against discrimination.
  • Continued Workforce Diversity: Rates of HIV infection worldwide are highest among the young and women. Women now account for half of all AIDS cases, and in Africa, it is estimated that 60% of all HIV infected persons are women. In the United States, ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the incidence of HIV/AIDS. Companies that place special emphasis on HIV/AIDS education and support for employees in these particularly at-risk populations will benefit from being able to maintain a workforce that represents multiple perspectives, talents, and skills, as well as being more reflective of the general population.
  • Lower rates of Employee Turnover: Company efforts to prevent HIV infection and to support employees with HIV/AIDS will reduce the rate of employee loss due to this disease The costs of turnover, including lost productivity, can be high, as much as one-half to one year's pay for each person needing replacement in some countries. In addition, there are the immeasurable costs resulting from loss of tacit knowledge and reduced morale among coworkers.
  • Improved Employee Morale: The most immediate reported benefit of workplace HIV/AIDS education is improved morale In addition to providing information that allays fears and offers guidance on preventing infection, such programs are a sign that employers are knowledgeable about the issues and care about their employees Formal policies on HIV/AIDS also increase morale by clarifying responsibilities and expectations Companies that provide opportunities for their employees to participate in fund raising or other community-related efforts to support the fight against HIV/AIDS also benefit from the rise in morale people experience when able to make a positive contribution.

Key Developments

Millions of people are now living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. A number of factors have changed the ways businesses are responding to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Here are some of the more prominent ones:

  • Increasing Global Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: The numbers are staggering. In December 2002, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that 42 million people are living with HIV, 5 million of whom became infected in 2002. Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst-affected region, with 29.4 million people infected, or 70 percent of the infected population worldwide; South and Southeast Asia (6.0 million) and Latin America and the Caribbean (1.94 million) follow. More than 20 million Africans have died from the disease, and 12 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Prevalence rates vary from 0.1% in the least affected countries, to nearly 3% in the hardest hit countries. In the United States, which currently has an infected population of 900,000, more than 66 percent of large companies and 10 percent of small companies employ at least one infected person Approximately 12 of every 1000 adults in the world between the ages of 15 and 49 are HIV-positive.
  • Emergence of Serious Economic Consequences: Because half of all people who become infected with HIV do so before they reach age twenty-five, and most will die before they are thirty-five, HIV/AIDS is affecting the core of the workforce. The potential effects, especially in developing countries, are devastating, both to the social fabric of societies and to economic growth. Estimates by the World Bank suggest that the macroeconomic impact of HIV/AIDS may reduce the growth of national income by up to a third in countries where prevalence among adults is 10 percent. Science magazine (July 2000) noted that the world has never experienced death rates among young adults of both sexes and across all social strata of the magnitude expected for countries, such as Botswana, where infection rates exceed 20 percent of the population. A report by the ILO issued in 2000 projects reductions of 17 to 21 percent in the workforces of countries like Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe by 2020, and anticipates a resulting increase in child laborers, moonlighting parents, job absenteeism, and retraining costs These trends, if unstopped, will lead to significant reductions in savings rates and disposable income, market size for businesses, production and investment, and, ultimately, declining economic growth.
  • HIV/AIDS as a Chronic Illness: Antiretroviral drug therapy generally leads to improvements in the quality and length of life for persons living with HIV/AIDS. What was once an acute, terminal illness can become a manageable, chronic illness. High costs have generally limited access to these drugs to persons living in developed countries, and this has caused some developing countries to produce their own generic brands of these drugs in order to keep the costs of treatment low. India produces generic copies of antiretroviral drugs, and has no patent law, so it has been able to do this legally. Thailand, South Africa, and Brazil have all negotiated sharp price cuts from drug makers by threatening to break patent laws. As therapeutic measures have had positive effects, individuals with HIV/AIDS with access to ARVs have been able to return to work in increasing numbers. This has been most notable in the developed world, where ARVs are more readily accessible.


  • Continuing Need for HIV/AIDS Education and Training: Several factors indicate the need to engage in ongoing workplace programs devoted to educating and training employees about HIV/AIDS. Social stigmas attached to the disease continue to exist, inhibiting alteration of behaviors that contribute to the spread of the disease. As well, studies show that risk behavior is increasing again in some of the most affected communities in industrialized countries.
  • Widespread Workplace Responses: Many companies currently have AIDS-related programs and incorporate HIV/AIDS initiatives into employee assistance programs and as part of medical leave benefits, reflecting a move to include this illness with other serious illnesses. Other business initiatives have HIV/AIDS-specific education and training and formal HIV/AIDS policy statements. Such practices continue on an ever-widening scale, as companies address AIDS in their global operations. Chevron Nigeria has stated that its program has been cost-effective by reducing health costs, and lowering risk of infection, while decreasing the stigma of having AIDS, and helping the company create a strong response to the disease.
  • New Coalitions and Partnerships Involving Businesses: A widening array of business coalitions and partnerships involving business are being formed to support the fight against AIDS. Among the many alliances are:
    • The International HIV Treatment Access Coalition, which is comprised of the WHO, UNAIDS, the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and advocacy groups such as the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, and the Corporate Task Force on AIDS in Africa, formed to examine what American corporations operating in Africa can do to better combat the disease there.
    • The Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS which was passed in 2001 by 189 countries at a meeting of the UN’s General Assembly articulated n targets and timelines for action on the pandemic. The agreement provides a way to measure progress towards these targets, and increases the possibility for collaboration, which has manifested in the form of regional collaborations. One example is the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV/AIDS, which recently signed an agreement with six pharmaceutical companies to provide access to antiretroviral drugs at the same discounted price given to countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
    • The ILO’s program on “HIV/AIDS and the World of Work” has succeeded in developing important multi-sectoral partnerships in Asia, including guidelines by the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce on HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and a program by the Philippines Trade Union Congress to set up 14 health centers where members can receive diagnosis, counseling and treatment for HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
  • Reporting/Transparency: An emerging trend requires businesses to report on HIV/AIDS programs in the workplace. The King Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa recommends that every organization report annually on its efforts to improve health and safety in the workplace, including “the nature and extent of the strategy, plan and policies adopted to address and manage the potential impact of HIV/AIDS on the company’s activities” Similarly, the protocol of the Global Reporting Initiative requires organizations using the guidelines to provide a description of their HIV policies and programs.

External Standards

The following are summaries of the more prominent international voluntary policies and laws governing HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Laws concerning employee disability, health, and safety generally govern employer responses to HIV/AIDS. However, legal guidelines about HIV/AIDS and the workplace have not been widespread A recent search of the International Labor Organization’s database revealed that only about 30 countries had passed legislation specifically related to HIV/AIDS in the workplace.


Several organizations worldwide, including the ILO and the UN, have created model codes of practice or policies that complement legal standards of conduct, and, in the absence of clear legal guidelines, these model codes have become the clearest external standards. Additionally, these guidelines may usefully inform corporate codes of conduct. Other groups that have developed policies and training materials on a global level include the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also developed guidelines for business.

  • The ILO’s Code of Practice on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work is intended to complement legal standards of conduct, and details the essential components of HIV/AIDS policies. It lists the following 10 points as most important for HIV/AIDS policies. These points can be found as part of the code of practice, at .

1. Recognition of HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue - HIV/AIDS is a workplace issue, not only because it affects the workforce, but also because the workplace can play a vital role in limiting the spread and effects of the epidemic.

2. Non-discrimination -There should be no discrimination or stigmatization against workers on the basis of real or perceived HIV status.

3. Gender equality - More equal gender relations and the empowerment of women are vital to preventing the spread of HIV infection and enabling women to cope with HIV/AIDS.

4. Healthy work environment - The work environment should be healthy and safe, and adapted to the state of health and capabilities of workers.

5. Social dialogue - A successful HIV/AIDS policy and programme requires cooperation, trust and dialogue between employers, workers, and governments.

6. Screening for purposes of employment - HIV/AIDS screening should not be required of job applicants or persons in employment, and testing for HIV should not be carried out at the workplace except as specified in this code.

7. Confidentiality -Access to personal data relating to a worker's HIV status should be bound by the rules of confidentiality consistent with existing ILO codes of practice.

8. Continuing the employment relationship - HIV infection is not a cause for termination of employment. Persons with HIV-related illnesses should be able to work for as long as medically fit in appropriate conditions.

9. Prevention - The social partners are in a unique position to promote prevention efforts through information and education, and support changes in attitudes and behaviour.

10. Care and support - Solidarity, care and support should guide the response to AIDS at the workplace. All workers are entitled to affordable health services and to benefits from statutory and occupational schemes.

The ILO has noted that many states’ constitutions uphold the individual’s rights to equality and privacy and health, and that these provisos have been used to protect people living with HIV/AIDS.

  • International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights have been issued jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Guideline 6 on "Access to prevention, treatment, care and support," has been updated to read as follows:
    • Access to HIV/AIDS-related treatment is fundamental to the realization of the right to health;
    • Prevention, treatment, care and support are a continuum;
    • Access to medication is one element of comprehensive treatment, care and support;
    • International cooperation is vital in realizing equitable access to care, treatment and support to all in need.


As mentioned above, the absence of stronger national legal standards regarding HIV/AIDS is striking. However, some national laws have provided strong protections for persons living with HIV/AIDS. An illustrative sample of some of the laws with the strongest provisions is provided below.

  • United States -- In the United States, several different laws provide protection for workers with HIV/AIDS. The Americans with Disabilities Act outlaws workplace discrimination, provides privacy protections for information on an employee's health, and allows pre-employment medical inquiries only under certain circumstances. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, businesses with 50 or more employees within 75 miles must grant up to 12 weeks of leave to employees who have a serious health condition, such as HIV/AIDS, or who must attend to the serious illness of a child, parent, or spouse. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard requires that employers of workers who experience occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, including HIV, develop an exposure control plan that is updated annually.
  • Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's Labour Relations (HIV and AIDS) Regulations of 1998 ban non-consensual testing, outlaw workplace discrimination, require wide dissemination of the Regulations and dictate strong penalties, including up to six months' imprisonment, for employers who violate the Regulations.
  • Namibia and South Africa have also banned mandatory testing, while South Africa has explicitly prohibited discrimination based on HIV status, with strong fines possible for employers who are found to violate this regulation. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange announced in 2002 that it would require all companies listed on the exchange to report on HIV/AIDS in the workplace.
  • Costa Rica -- Costa Rica’s legislation bans discrimination, provides protection to individuals, mandates education and counseling, and is viewed as a model by many.
  • Philippines -- In the Philippines, the AIDS Prevention and Control Act states clearly that persons living with HIV/AIDS are entitled to full protection of their human rights and civil liberties.

Implementation Steps

Companies vary in their approaches to HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Practices that contribute to a long-term, comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of the illness and preventing its spread include the following:

  • Gather Information from Partnerships and Collaborations: Partnerships or collaborations with external experts, local and international NGOs, academic institutions, government bodies, multilateral institutions, company unions or employee associations and other related groups are cited by businesses as a critical component throughout every stage of developing and implementing an HIV/AIDS program. Such collaboration can be particular useful in developing an overall strategy, conducting needs assessments, building the business case, providing treatment, educating workers, protecting workers’ rights, and evaluating the program.
  • Create an HIV/AIDS Policy: Prepare a written statement describing your company's policy on HIV/AIDS, involving people living with HIV/AIDS in its creation if possible. In addition to clarifying the responsibilities of different staff for upholding the policy, describe company policies concerning such issues as nondiscrimination and lack of harassment, confidentiality of medical information, reasonable workplace accommodations, and benefit plans. For businesses where employees are at risk of workplace exposure to HIV, spell out training requirements, safety procedures and equipment, and a plan for responding to workplace exposure to the virus.
  • Involve Multiple Stakeholders in Policy and Program Development: Seek feedback from local and international NGOs, academics, health experts, unions and employees to make sure that a policy is thorough, fair and just, and answers concerns of workers. During program development, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa held a series of roundtables with stakeholders to gain the support of the community and feedback on its HIV/AIDS policy.
  • Approach HIV/AIDS as Any Other Debilitating Disease: From a policy perspective, approaching HIV/AIDS as any other progressive disease will help remove the stigma of HIV/AIDS and make employees living with HIV/AIDS less likely to suffer discrimination and, therefore, come forward for treatment.
  • Design Workplace HIV/AIDS Programs to Fit Local Cultures: Craft policies and programs to address the circumstances of HIV/AIDS prevalence, primary mode of transmission, level of workforce education, and cultural norms by taking into account local cultures and conditions.
  • Ensure That Policy Is a Living Document: Make sure the policy is driven by all levels and units within the company, so that it is not viewed as only a human resources policy. Demonstrate that the policy is a commitment to protecting workers by having the CEO and an independent, credible third party, such as the union, sign the document. Post the signed policy, translated into local languages, throughout business operations and within easy view of all employees.
  • Take a Comprehensive Approach: Company representatives repeatedly emphasize the importance of taking an approach that focuses on prevention, education and treatment. A program that focuses only on providing access to drugs while ignoring behavior will ultimately not have a significant impact.


  • Intervene Early: Early intervention is one of the most important strategies of any HIV/AIDS program. Companies such as Eskom, with education programs dating back to the late 1980s, claim to have lower prevalence rates in their workforce than other businesses in their community because they made HIV/AIDS a business priority early on.
  • Obtain Support of Company Leadership: Clear support from company leadership is critical, particularly with respect to obtaining resources for comprehensive programs. Developing a strong business case, which includes quantitative data on projected AIDS-related costs, can help garner long-term support of executive management.
  • Development of Peer Educator System for Program Delivery: Companies often cited the use of peer educators for program delivery, education and communication as a critical factor in program success.
  • Provide Ongoing Education and Training: Reinforce and expand the company’s HIV/AIDS policy by providing education and training for all employees, starting with the orientation of new employees. Include information on the illness, how to prevent HIV infection, appropriate workplace conduct, and legal issues that may arise; and provide guidance for managers and supervisors in complying with laws and regulations, managing benefits, accommodating employees with HIV/AIDS, and helping employees who wish counsel. Supply education and training at regular intervals to make certain that information and guidelines remain current, that all employees possess full awareness and that knowledge of desired practices, and complacency is avoided.
  • Ensure Legal Compliance: Gain a full understanding of the laws and regulations governing workplace practices with respect to HIV/AIDS and be certain to learn about new legal developments as they occur. Because current laws have areas of ambiguity, consult with informed legal counsel when creating company policies and procedures.
  • Support Employees with HIV/AIDS: Help employees with HIV/AIDS balance their job demands and stresses associated with illness-related issues by offering support groups, flexible work scheduling, telecommuting and extra time off. Nutrition and exercise programs have proven particularly effective in improving lifestyle and maintaining productivity.
  • Give Employees Opportunities to Support the Fight Against HIV/AIDS: Where culturally appropriate, provide employees with regular opportunities to make a positive contribution by creating fund-raising ventures and volunteer opportunities with local HIV/AIDS-support groups--and give employees time off to participate in these activities. Also involve employees in decisions about philanthropic support for HIV/AIDS-related endeavors. Cause-related marketing campaigns are another way to engage employees in combating HIV/AIDS.
  • Collaborate with Other Organizations: Link up with other organizations to build leverage in the campaign against HIV/AIDS. Share your policies, programs, and expertise with other businesses; join with nonprofit organizations to develop and implement education and care programs in the workplace and community; and form multi-sector coalitions to provide advocacy and leadership at local, national, and international levels.
  • Engage in Efforts to Build Local Capacity: Work with local governments, NGOs and health care providers to strengthen local infrastructure and capacity with a view to creating sustainable health care access for employees and the broader community.


Leadership Examples

These "leadership" practices have been chosen as illustrative examples. They are intended to represent innovation, higher than average commitment, unusual industry practice or a comprehensive approach to this issue. Periodically, the examples listed may be changed.

The Anglo American Association is a global mining company that has been actively involved in addressing issues related to HIV/AIDS for more than twelve years, and has based its program on three fundamentals - education (using a peer educator approach), condom distribution and effective treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In August 2002, Anglo American announced that it would make anti-retroviral therapy (ART) would available to employees with HIV/AIDS, who do not have benefits that currently cover it. Anglo American is working with trade unions and the government to implement the program, which targets not just employees, their families and the community at large. Anglo's program has been comprehensive and proactive. They are taking steps to understand the prevalence of HIV in the workforce through voluntary and anonymous surveys, and encouraging voluntary counseling and testing, while promoting education, and making treatment available. The company has a full-time AIDS adviser, who helps promote the program, and works with management to develop appropriate responses. All of the company’s divisions are required to produce plans for managing HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Anglo American has stated that it benefits from the program by extending the lives of infected employees and containing future AIDS related costs, including absenteeism, medical expenses, pension benefits and the recruitment and training costs required to replace employees who become too ill to work.

Eskom is a state-owned electricity utility company based in South Africa. It commissioned a series of studies in 1995 and 1996 to determine the business cost of HIV/AIDS. Some of the direct costs that were considered in the cost benefit analysis included: 1) cost of non-treatment, 2) cost of benefits 3) cost for training, retraining, and recruitment, and 4) cost of an HIV/AIDS program. Some of the indirect costs considered included: 1) absenteeism, 2) loss of productivity, 3) management burden (training individuals as lay counselors), 4) systemic costs such as loss of work/life experience, 5) impact on labor market, and 6) impact on team cohesion or morale (alluded to but not quantified). Eskom then proceeded to enlist the services of an external consultant on HIV/AIDS to determine where it should focus its efforts. To have a greater impact on curbing the disease, the consultant advised Eskom to extend its reach beyond the workforce and into the lives of the sexual partners of employees who worked in isolated areas. These factors led to the company’s dismantling of its policy on pre-employment testing and its movement toward the development of a more comprehensive and coordinated effort beyond condom distribution, awareness and education. Eskom has seen prevalence rates in its workforce drop, and its early and comprehensive intervention is a useful model for workplace programs.

Get Paper Industry, in Nepal, was established in 1985 and supplies handmade paper to The Body Shop International and other businesses. The company formed a health education organization to implement - with assistance from NGOs and international aid agencies - a variety of social responsibility programs in the areas of primary education, the environment and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS program began in 1993 through a public education and awareness program. Since then it has focused on developing outreach mechanisms to the most high-risk groups in Nepal: truck drivers, sex workers, and high school and college students to inform them of the dangers of the disease and preventive measures.

Teradyne, Inc. manufactures high speed test equipment for semiconductors in the United States, Japan, and Europe. In response to early cases of AIDS, Teradyne undertook a nationwide employee education campaign that has reached more than 5,000 employees in Massachusetts, Vermont, Texas, Illinois, and California. A company spokesperson explains, "In putting the program together, we felt that it was extremely important that managers and supervisors be made aware of an infected person's legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. . . . [At Teradyne,] people with HIV and AIDS are treated with the same respect and consideration as anyone else with a disability." Teradyne now uses the seminar as an orientation to the company's overall approach to illness, disability, workplace injuries, and discrimination.

Levi Strauss & Co. began formulating a comprehensive corporate response to HIV/AIDS in 1982 and was one of the first companies to implement a workplace policy on HIV/AIDS and an AIDS education program for all employees. As the illness spread worldwide, this large apparel manufacturer launched several new education initiatives: (1) Levi Strauss & Co. currently supplies HIV/AIDS education to all of its affiliates in more than sixty countries using such resources as its 1998 video "The Changing Face of AIDS: The Global Epidemic," which has been now translated into fourteen languages and is available for use by other businesses; (2) tailors its educational program to employees' communities, using posters and theater groups in areas of low literacy; and (3) has responded to some employees' reluctance to talk about HIV/AIDS by creating an employee assistance program (EAP) site on the company's intranet, linked to its European affiliates and providing both U.S. and European HIV resource information. Such activities supplement the company's standard practice of providing an HIV/AIDS education session during new employee orientation as well as further education on company time. Managers from the company are involved with nonprofit organizations, such as the National AIDS Fund, and actively champion the importance of workplace HIV/AIDS education programs. Since 1985 the company and the Levi Strauss Foundation have contributed more than $25 million to support HIV/AIDS programs around the world.

The Shell Company of Thailand, a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, runs approximately 800 retail service stations and convenience stores throughout the country. Shell Thailand has established an HIV/AIDS policy which protects employees from discrimination, and includes provisions for counseling and medicine for employees, in addition to offering HIV/AIDS education. Shell Thailand has made their policy publicly available, by posting it on the website of the Asian Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. Additionally, the company has partnered with the Thailand Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and the United Nations Children's Fund on HIV/AIDS education projects, to develop programs for fuel attendants at stations in the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai.


Sample Policies

Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA)
Ford developed its HIV/AIDS workplace policy in 1999. Part of the policy development process included consultations with its union, WITS AIDS law project at the WITS University in South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control, and internal human resources staff. The policy is unique in that it is signed by both the CEO of FMCSA and by a representative of the trade union and is posted throughout company premises in meeting rooms, work areas, and break rooms. Ford feels that the signatures demonstrate to employees that the policy is a living document that will protect them. Ford also has a zero tolerance policy on harassment and discriminatory practices, fostering an environment in which employees will be more comfortable revealing their HIV status. Policies are communicated through the peer education program, employee handbook, and internal monthly company magazine.

MTV Networks
"MTV's involvement in HIV and AIDS revolves around three critical issues:

1.       To educate our audience about how not to become HIV positive.

2.       To eradicate the stigma and discrimination that has become such a part of the lives of those infected with HIV and AIDS.

3.       And to ensure that our audience understands the huge tragedy facing certain parts of this world. . . . "So what does MTV do? MTV produces programming that our viewers can relate to, including the Emmy award winning documentary 'Staying Alive' (1998)... Since 1997, we have ensured that any AIDS programming (including "Staying Alive") that MTV makes is made 'rights-free,' so that UNAIDS, and other AIDS Agencies, and any broadcaster anywhere in the world can air our programming ... for free, no strings attached. On an ongoing basis, we produce public service announcements, and we regularly ask artists appearing on our channels to 'speak out' about AIDS: we want to make condoms cool, and using them cooler, by using the most popular youth icons/artists to help deliver the message."

South African Breweries (SAB)
SAB’s HIV/AIDS efforts are guided by its Life Threatening Disease Policy, which provides clarity on the company’s “views and commitments with regard to assisting employees” with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, Chronic obstructive airways disease, and HIV/AIDS. Its nondiscrimination policy states that “HIV/AIDS infected employees should be treated on a similar basis to any other employee suffering from a life threatening disease. As such, employees who are either HIV positive or have AIDS should not be subject to any form of victimization or discrimination.” SAB’s testing policy states that “testing of an employee for the HIV virus will only be undertaken at his/her explicit request.”

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB)
Standard Chartered Bank’s HIV/AIDS policies state that the company seeks to: 1) disseminate information to employees on HIV/AIDS, its magnitude, impact and preventive measures; 2) implement non-discriminatory policies and practices in managing individuals who have HIV/AIDS; 3) approach individuals with HIV/AIDS in the same manner as those with any other debilitating or life-threatening disease; 4) establish clearly defined policies and procedures which reflect local practices, procedures, culture and legislation; and 5) join forces with other organizations to counter HIV/AIDS and alleviate its impact by sharing the results of SCB’s internal research and supporting their efforts where appropriate.

With respect to testing, SCB’s policy allows testing when circumstances require it, such as to obtain a work permit or when it is required for business travel. However, in general the bank does not find mandatory testing to be “necessary or desirable.” SCB strongly encourages voluntary testing among its employees. SCB’s discrimination policy forbids HIV testing when recruiting job candidates and ensures that “job candidates who are known to have AIDS are treated no differently from those who have any other life-threatening and non-contagious disease.”



  • Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS Awards for Business Excellence: These annual awards, created in 1998, are designed "to give international recognition to the valuable contribution made by business to the fight against HIV & AIDS" and "to identify and promote the best of these as models of good practice." Businesses in the private sector worldwide are invited to enter the competition if they have responded to HIV/AIDS by developing projects that achieve one or more of the following aims: create awareness and education among the workforce, other stakeholders, or the wider community; support people with HIV/AIDS at work and prevent discrimination; participate in local, national, or international efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS and alleviate the impact of the pandemic; raise funds for HIV/AIDS work; and involve children and young people in programs.

·         Commonwealth Awards for Action: The Commonwealth Awards for Action on HIV/AIDS were awarded for the first time in 2002, and recognized actors in the private sector, as well as governments, media, and civil society. Awards are made in three areas: prevention; comprehensive care; and policy and advocacy. More information about the awards is available at


  • The following list is not comprehensive. It is an illustrative group of the many nonprofit, public sector and/or academic resources around the world who are potential resources for the business response to HIV/AIDS. Periodically, the examples listed may be changed. At this time, the list does not include for-profit resources.


·         The International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency, seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights. Its website supplies extensive information on the ILO and its work in the field of HIV/AIDS, including the code of conduct, as well as conferences, programs and services, speeches, reports and publications; and provides links to databases and other web sites.

·         The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), established in 1996, brings together seven groups, including the United Nations Development Programme, World Health Organization, and the World Bank, to serve as the main advocate for global action on HIV/AIDS. The mission of UNAIDS is to work to prevent the transmission of HIV, provide care and support for those infected and affected by the disease, reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV/AIDS, and alleviate the socioeconomic and human impact of the pandemic. Promoting the involvement of private companies in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS is a major priority for the program, and its website offers a wide array of information and publications relating to HIV/AIDS and efforts to reduce its incidence and impact.

  • Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS

·         The Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS (GBC) advocates corporate responses to the challenges posed by HIV and AIDS along several fronts: individual company responses, partnerships with NGOs and government agencies equipped to tackle HIV, mobilizing business on regional and national levels through HIV & AIDS councils and coalitions, and sharing approaches to HIV with corporate clients, suppliers, and others in their sector. The GBC provides a growing fund of case studies documenting best practices, as well as other resource materials and publications. The GBC website offers information on, and links to, GBC partner organizations and members, descriptions of award-winning programs, an array of resources and publications for downloading, and facts and figures on HIV/AIDS.

·         The GHI is part of the World Economic Forum (WEF), and serves as a resource for businesses fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The GHI partners with the WEF's member companies, other AIDS organizations, NGOs, academics, and governments. The organization works to promote the business case for fighting these diseases, and identifies best practices in the field and resources available to companies.


·         The Asian Business Coalition on AIDS (ABC on AIDS) is a public-private partnership aiming to expand and improve the business response to HIV/AIDS in the region. The coalition links together public & civil organizations and businesses in 11 countries in Asia.

  • Business Responds to AIDS and Labor Responds to AIDS

·         Business Responds to AIDS and Labor Responds to AIDS (BRTA/LRTA) are programs of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), created to help large and small businesses and labor unions meet the challenges of HIV/AIDS in the workplace and the community. They work to promote the development of comprehensive workplace HIV/AIDS programs. Their website offers reports on workplace responses to HIV/AIDS; provides access to an array of publications, and provides links to other information sources and organizations.


·         The Mexican government health ministry’s HIV/AIDS server provides information about AIDS in Mexico, including notices of upcoming conferences, recent reports and news, and statistics. It includes regional information about Latin America, as well as international issues.

·         The Hong Kong AIDS Foundation was started with support of the government and the private sector. Their site provides basic information, such as referral resources, local support groups and links. They also offer services such as blood tests, counseling, and emergency financial support.

  • Indonesia AIDS Homepage

·         The site has information about individuals and organizations in Indonesia who work in AIDS prevention, counseling and care. It also contains links to the archives of AIDS newsletters in Indonesia, statistics, and information about government policy and statements about AIDS.

·         PAHO's Regional Program on AIDS offers technical expertise for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS throughout the Americas. The organization works to improve governmental capacity to combat AIDS and to provide care, and offers trainings and other technical assistance. The program also advocates for policy changes, and works with NGOs to assist in their efforts.

  • South African Business Council on HIV/AIDS (SABCOHA)

·         SABCOHA works to increase action by South African companies and encourage leadership in the business response to HIV/AIDS. SABCOHA is made up of business leaders of South African companies of all sizes and industries.



Author: BSR Staff