Partnerships make Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS a reality

Australia's HIV Ambassador Murray Proctor, FABC President Caz Tebbutt Dennis and UNAIDS APLF Representative Steven Vete at the historic signing of a 3 way partnership in Suva in July, photo courtesy of Fiji Times.The Fiji Australia Business Council (FABC) has today entered into a partnership agreement with UNAIDS and a funding agreement with the Australian Government to establish a Fiji Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS.

"These agreements represent historic milestones in the continued fight against HIV and AIDS in Fiji", says FABC President Caz Tebbutt Dennis, "bringing leadership, technical expertise and funding together from key global, regional and local players to help business respond appropriately to this problem".

Both agreements were signed in Suva this morning. UNAIDS Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/AIDS and Development Representative Mr. Steven Vete, Australia’s HIV Ambassador Mr. Murray Proctor and FABC President Caz Tebbutt Dennis were all signatories. The Australian High Commissioner HE James Batley also attended the signing. "To have Ambassador Proctor, HE James Batley and Steven Vete all together for this shows just how important today is in the bigger HIV and AIDS picture", says Tebbutt Dennis.

Business has an important role to play in the increasingly multi-sectoral response to HIV and AIDS. "HIV and AIDS is an issue for business world wide, not just because there is an expected corporate social responsibility aspect to this global epidemic and a need for business leadership, but because HIV and AIDS affects the most important asset of all business - the workforce", said Tebbutt Dennis.

There is global evidence that HIV and AIDS directly impacts productivity, GDP and the economy as a whole, stimulating business coalitions on HIV and AIDS in a number of countries especially in Africa and Asia-Pacific. Fiji is joining the Asia- Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS network as the 10th member country.

It is anticipated that when established the Business Coalition will help companies to develop HIV/AIDS policies that might include voluntary testing of employees and a goal of 100% HIV/AIDS awareness in their workforce. The Coalition is also expected to provide workplace training and also to train the trainers in other areas. The FABC is grateful for the support and assistance provided by UNAIDS and the Australian Government, and says it is now up to the private sector to take this opportunity and develop it fully. "It is important that the private sector get involved now in a private sector solution – by the private sector for the private sector", says FABC.

Expressions of interest from private sector organizations to sponsor, support or partner the Business Coalition are now being sought. The Fiji Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS will be formally launched later in 2008.