Business Times

Business Community to pass the pillow on AIDS awareness

The Lanka Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS has commenced a new awareness campaign in passing a red pillow that states “Pass on Awareness, not HIV.” The pillow was first handed over to Standard Chartered PLC CEO Anirvan Ghosh Dastidar by the Asia Pacific Business coalition on AIDS (APBCA) CEO Stephen Grant this week in Colombo signifying a challenge for the organization to take forward the AIDS awareness programme.

Mr. Grant, addressing the media, said that the prevalence of the epidemic grew due to the private sector disregarding the problem leaving it to be handled by the government alone in Africa.
In this respect, he called on the local business community to take stock of the rise in the rate of prevalence in Sri Lanka and work towards eradicating it noting that “Smart companies and smart CEOs respond to AIDS as it makes sound economic sense.”

The low prevalence in Sri Lanka is at 0.2% of the general population, however, the country is faced with several risk factors like Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), migration both internally and externally, National STD/AIDS Control Programme acting Venereologist Dr. Geethani Samaraweera said.

It was pointed out that although the number is less there is a rise in the number of new infections recorded. She noted that the main problem was that only one-third of cases are diagnosed while preventive measures were taken like concentration on high risk groups as in female sex workers; between men and men; and drug users. Currently one individual falls victim on a daily basis, LBCH President and Chevron Lubricants Lanka PLC Country Chairman and CEO Kishu Gomes said. He pointed out that they were working towards promoting workplace policies that address this issue.

Mr. Gomes said the right attitude was necessary in tackling this issue and in this regard there needs to be a concerted effort by companies islandwide. While the country promotes tourism, sports and overseas employment, he questioned whether policies were in place to mitigate the risk of infection and fight against AIDS by these sections of the society.

The new awareness campaign initiated by Bates Strategic Alliance has been coined from the children’s game to “Pass it On”. This cushion would be passed onto the stakeholders who will in turn pass it to their employees to create awareness on HIV/AIDS. Globally 9 out of 10 workers with the epidemic are in the workforce however statistics were unavailable on the Sri Lankan situation. The LBCH is modeled on the Global Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS and is a member of the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS. The aim is to leverage the business community to make a committed response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

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