Companies slow to respond to epidemic

UGANDA: Companies slow to respond to epidemic

©  IRIN/Lucy hannan

AIDS billboard in Uganda

JOHANNESBURG, 29 Dec 2003 (PLUSNEWS) - The success of the Ugandan government's response to the country's HIV/AIDS pandemic is now well recognised, but the corporate response to the disease is still lagging behind, according to a recently released AIDS country profile.

The AIDS Profile Project, undertaken by the University of California San Francisco's AIDS Policy Research Centre, found that despite financial contributions to existing HIV/AIDS interventions, companies were still not doing enough.

"There is largely a paucity of sustained and systematic corporate leadership in providing comprehensive HIV/AIDS programmes for their employees," researchers noted.

According to the report, in September 2003 the Uganda AIDS Commission found that "until now, the corporate response has been rather limited."

The Commission called for the private sector to protect their workforces and their families against the spread of the epidemic, and support their HIV-positive employees.

But some progress has been made. In 2000, the Bank of Uganda began to offer subsidised antiretroviral drugs to its employees and other companies were starting to follow suit.

The Ugandan Business Council on HIV/AIDS was launched in May 2001 to persuade small and large businesses to adopt policies to educate staff on HIV/AIDS and to support workers living with the virus. Earlier this year, the council began implementing its own small treatment programme, the profile said.

Uganda's Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development recommends that companies make condoms available in the workplace and advocates for non-discrimination and confidentiality. The government has also recommended that non-compulsory HIV tests should be freely available.

However businesses are not compelled to implement these recommendations.

The profile also outlined the effects of domestic violence and the country's humanitarian crisis on the epidemic. Conflict had severely weakened Uganda's health services, resulting in a shortage of adequate supplies and clinical equipment.

Despite "far-reaching affirmative action programmes" to promote women, Ugandan women were still vulnerable as many customary and statutory laws still discriminated against them, the report said.

For more information on Uganda's AIDS Profile:

The AIDS Profile Project has also developed updated profiles of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


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