The Business Response to HIV/AIDS: Impact and lessons learned – UNAIDS, Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, and the Global B

Despite the fact that business has a vested interest in minimizing the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on its operations and markets, it has been difficult to engage the sector in a meaningful and sustained response. In recent years, various initiatives have emerged to coax business into action. This report is one such initiative.

Like its predecessor, The Business Response to HIV/AIDS: Innovation and partnership, published in 1997, the report seeks to alert companies to the potential threat of the epidemic to their economic bottom lines and to suggest ways in which they can respond. The central message of the publication is that HIV/AIDS will have an impact on all companies, large and small, in varying degrees of severity, and it is advisable for them to respond accordingly, preferably sooner rather than later.

These responses should not be restricted to staff alone, but encompass a wide range of interventions with external stakeholders, be they suppliers of goods and services or the community at large. Further, these initiatives need to be grounded in the core competencies of the company and built on strong partnerships with key stakeholders.

While the report is informative and cites numerous examples of companies that have taken the initiative – it includes 17 profiles of business responses from around the globe – it does little more than expand on its predecessor. The title suggests that it will deal with the impact and lessons learned from business responses. While these are alluded to, they are lost, first, in the superficialities of a publication that seeks to cover too much ground and, second, because it is written in ‘development speak’ rather than grounded in the language of business.

Had the report focused critically on the measured impact (or lack of impact) of business responses to the epidemic and drawn from this and expanded upon two or three key lessons learned, it would have been a more persuasive tool to engage business (especially top management) in a more sustained response and would have been a worthy addition to a growing collection of writings on the role of business in the epidemic.

Gary Adler is Executive Director of the AIDS Foundation of South Africa. He can be contacted by email at

The Business Response to HIV/AIDS: Impact and lessons learned
UNAIDS, Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum, and the Global Business Council on HIV & AIDS 

For a copy of the report please contact Kieran Daly in Durban, South Africa on +27 31 563 0600 or at or Isabelle Tin-Aung at PWBLF, London, on +44 207 467 3652 or at

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