Weekender

Business sector to fight killer disease

Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU. The business sector in Fiji has been reminded on how it can help assist the country in preventing and reducing the impact of HIV and
25 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : MARAEA WAQALEVU.
The business sector in Fiji has been reminded on how it can help assist the country in preventing and reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS on business and private sector employees in the country.
Thus the soon to be established Fiji Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS.
And in partnership with the Fiji-Australia Business Council and UNAIDS, the Australian Government is generously donating more than $30,000 to as a seed funding for the establishment of the coalition.
HIV remains an ongoing threat to development countries around the world with approximately 4.9 million people in the Asia Pacific region living with the deadly disease.
In Fiji there are currently 265 confirmed cases of HIV which is a significant increase from the 182 reported cases in December 2004.
The involvement of leaders of the private sector in the fight against the spread of HIV would be very essential.
Australia’s HIV Ambassador, Murray Proctor who was at the signing of the partnership with Fiji said the Fiji Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS would add to the growing number of business coalitions in the Asia Pacific region which are actively engaging the private sector in reducing the impact of HIV and AIDS in their countries.
“I was here in December last year to talk with the Fiji- Australia Business Council about the importance of HIV to businesses and to establish a coalition is very important.
“In Papua New Guinea, it is believed that up to two per cent of adults are HIV infected and to think that 20 years ago there were no reported cases of HIV,” Mr Proctor said.
He said Fiji shares a number of the same risk factors as PNG and that included the high rates of sexually transmitted infections, low rates of condom use and high rates of violence against women and labour mortality.
“It is a sobering reminder for Fiji and Australia, being a strong advocate for businesses is taking an active role in preventing and reducing the impact of HIV,” said Mr Proctor.
He said most of the people affected by the epidemic are young adults in their most productive years.
“AIDS affects the productivity of businesses. It takes people out of the workforce whether due to illness or the caring responsibilities.
“It has the potential to greatly affect the health workers in Fiji and therefore the health of Fiji markets, which is why businesses need to be involved in the fight against the deadly disease,” Mr Proctor said.
UNAIDS Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV and Development Sub regional Coordinator, Steven Vete has echoed similar sentiments.
At the signing of the partnership, Mr Vete said the involvement of the leaders in the private sector was important.
“The signing of the agreement to form the Fiji Business Coalition is important because HIV prevention programmes at the workplace will help to improve the welfare of the workers and families.
“Employees spend a lot of time at the workplace and in this way, they can learn a lot about issues such as HIV and AIDS and pass the knowledge on to their families and communities,” Mr Vete said.
He said the involvement of the private sectors was very crucial if the country is to succeed in reversing the tide of HIV in the Pacific.
Mr Vete said at the global level, none out of 10 people living with HIV are adults in their most productive years with two out of three people living with the disease going to work everyday.
“In the Pacific, the majority of the people infected with HIV are between 15 and 44, meaning the loss of breadwinners is devastating for the family and community.
“Loss of workers in their prime is not only a cost to employers, but also to Government and the country and the personal cost to their loved ones,” said Mr Vete.
He said UNAIDS has provided assistance to the Training Productivity Authority of Fiji (TPAF) to develop a training course to offer businesses.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is also working with Fiji’s Tripartite Forum on implementing the Employment Relation Promulgation which makes it compulsory for employers to implement HIV-work place programmes.
“We in the UNAIDS Pacific Office look forward to helping business peole in the Fiji Australia Business Coalition to develop an education, care and prevention programme for the business community including employees and their families,” said Mr Vete.
It is understood that Australia will spend approximately F$188million in 2008 to 2009 on programs to prevent the spread of HIV and mitigate its effects.
In March this year, the Australia Government announced a commitment of A $30million from 2009 to 2013 for the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund.


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