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Companies urged to tackle AIDS
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-10 07:37

More Chinese firms expect to feel the impact of HIV/AIDS in the next five years, even though only a minority of them have reported that the epidemic has affected their business so far, a survey has found.

According to the results of the World Economic Forum's annual Executive Opinion Survey last year, fewer than one-third of the 254 Chinese business leaders reported any current impact from the virus.

But 40 per cent predicted that HIV/AIDS will emerge as the main threat among infectious diseases to their business in the next half-decade.

"There's no reason to believe that business people will be less affected by the epidemic," Global Health Initiative Director Francesca Boldrini said on Friday when the survey results were released, at this year's annual China Business Summit in Beijing.

They may be infected by shared syringes and unprotected sex, she said, and "they are mobile men with money."

The expression "mobile men with money" refers to well-off businessmen who do not use condoms and even pay more for a prostitute who is willing to ignore the risks for the extra money.

Even though figures are still sketchy, experts fear that these businessmen in China's largest cities may be contracting and spreading HIV/AIDS to their wives and possibly other individuals in their communities.

Furthermore, there is potential for a greater economic effect as more employees contract the disease and die, even though little research has been conducted to determine the effect on Chinese businesses' operating costs and profitability.

"The existence of an HIV/AIDS policy strengthens a firm's confidence in the face of the threat," David Bloom, professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health, said yesterday.

The survey found Chinese firms have not yet begun to respond to HIV/AIDS in a concerted fashion, as only 4 per cent of companies have a written policy and only a further 19 per cent have informal programmes.

In China now, it is essential to urge large-scale companies to make HIV/AIDS policies, because they can then lend their expertise to smaller firms, which form the majority of Chinese businesses.

The survey - carried out by the World Economic Forum's Global Health Initiative, Harvard University, the American Foundation for AIDS Research and UNAIDS - questioned 254 Chinese business leaders during the first five months of last year.

(China Daily 09/10/2005 page2)

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