"We were naive about AIDS and have allowed it to become a major disease," EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, explaining that if in the 1980s AIDS awareness was a top priority in the public sphere, the generations that became sexually active after the massive awareness-raising campaigns are ignorant, do not protect themselves, infect others, do not seek help and think HIV is easy to cure.
"The absolute main priority for action on HIV/AIDS, in European region, is prevention programmes for vulnerable groups. Not only the existence of these programmes, but also their sustainability. It is very important that all young people from age of 12 up to 25 have access to prevention programmes, especially the most vulnerable group. Prevalence is rising in young gay men due to lack of information and acceptance of risky behaviours. The most vulnerable groups include also immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa as they don't have access to prevention programmes or services," said the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Liaison Officer to the EU, Denis Haveaux.
"As to the developing world, the EU has two roles to play: to use the huge amount of money it has for development policy to be sure that its programmes to fight HIV/AIDS are sustainable and to promote values that it brings to the debate. In addition, business has an important role to play as well. However, the main focus is not really in Europe, but in the United States and the Anglo-Saxon world, where you have big coalitions of enterprises against HIV/AIDS. We work closely with the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS," he added.
According to a recent global business survey on HIV/AIDS, "business is making strong progress in partnering with governments, multilateral organizations and communities to support the global fight against HIV/AIDS. Workplace prevention and education programs are also now widespread, but efforts to collaborate with suppliers, fully utilise senior leadership and extend interventions in emerging markets still need an effective response."
The study shows that companies increasingly see HIV/AIDS both as a strategic and as a social responsibility issue, but business response varies by region, industry and enterprise scale.
"By using the workplace as a means to communicate and treat employees, businesses can make an enormous difference to the community and the fight against HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis," said Francesca Boldrini, Director of the Global Health Initiative.
"As a leading multinational company in Africa we acknowledge the expectations upon us to provide intellectually robust and humane solutions to address and ameliorate the impact of this disease throughout our sphere of influence and across our global operations," states SABMiller, one of the world's leading brewers. HIV/AIDS affects the company's business through availability of employees and the health and well-being of consumers. "The extent of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and related socio-economic consequences is cause for our company to manage this as an operational and reputation priority," states an official position. All affiliated companies are required to assess their internal level of HIV/AIDS risk, on an annual basis, and to report this information to the company's sustainable development department.
"AIDS is uniquely destructive to economies, because it kills people in the prime of their lives. Especially in its early stages, the epidemic tends to strike urban centres, the better educated, the elite in leadership and the most productive members of society. These deaths leach profits out of businesses and economies," said the former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. "There are already several examples of the enormous impact which corporate action can have in the fight against HIV/AIDS. They exist both in the workplace, which is one of the most effective places to educate and reach people, and in global efforts through advocacy, in-kind support, engagement with partners and direct donations," he added.
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a global not-for-profit, public-private partnership working to accelerate the development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection and AIDS, thinks that the EU and its member states can significantly contribute to discovery of an AIDS vaccine. This is, according to IAVI, possible through increased contribution and flexibility in the use of funds designated for AIDS-vaccine research and development.
IAVI argues that the Commission's current research-funding mechanisms focus on supporting basic research and are not sufficiently flexible to support product-development efforts or the needs that emerge during the development process. The initiative also urges increased support for international product-development public-private partnerships and incentives to increase industry's engagement.
"Twenty years down the line it is absolutely clear that the HIV&AIDS pandemic is ahead of the global response," states ActionAid International urging move from political commitments to real political action. The organisation also highlights the need to guarantee the rights of poor and excluded vulnerable people to demand actions from governments and to promote the leadership of women in an effective response to HIV/AIDS.
Stop Aids Alliance, a partnership between the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and Stop AIDS Now! has identified access to treatments as one of its key policy areas. The alliance argues that there is "little evidence within European policy of a commitment to the delivery of treatments".