World AIDS Day, celebrated on December 1, has become one of the most recognized international health days. It is an opportunity to increase awareness, remember those who have died, fight prejudice, improve education and celebrate victories.
As the New York Times recently noted, it is nearly 30 years since the epidemic began, and an estimated 33.3 million people are living with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Progress continues to be made — according to the 2010 UNAIDS report 2.6 million people became newly infected with H.I.V in 2009 — almost 20 percent fewer than the annual rate in the late 1990s.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2010 is ’Universal Access and Human Rights’. The world has made progress in increasing access to H.I.V and AIDS services, but greater commitment from world leaders is needed to achieve the goal of universal access. Of the millions infected with H.I.V every year, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy in low- and middle-income countries are receiving it, and many do not have access to adequate care and services.
At PepsiCo, we understand H.I.V./AIDS is a uniquely challenging global health issue. It poses a threat to the health and livelihoods of our associates and their families, as well as to the sustainability of our business operations worldwide. We are committed to assisting employees and family members who are affected, and to making a significant contribution to the fight against the pandemic.
Today in South Africa, where there are still an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 new infections annually, we recognized World Aids Day at all of our 32 sites. With Right To Care, an ongoing USAID initiative, we conducted voluntary counseling and testing at our major sites Isando (Johannesburg) and Parow (Cape Town) where 80 percent of our employees are based. All of our sites have posters and the walls will be draped with the World Aids Day banners to promote participation.
So far this year, we’ve held three “wellness weeks” at our major sites in South Africa, working in partnership with the Cancer Association of South Africa. In addition to voluntary H.I.V./AIDS counseling and testing, we offered cholesterol checks, diabetes checks, dental care, and eye tests to our employees. The program is aggressively driven by our two occupational health specialists, Sister Mavis Mkhumbuza in Isando and Sister Kate Josiah in Parow.
In addition to South Africa, we have H.I.V./AIDS workplace programs in countries where there is high or rising prevalence such as China, India, and Russia. These workplace programs are one step to ensure all of our associates and their families have access to affordable treatment for H.I.V./AIDS, including such services as anti-retroviral drugs, treatment for relief of H.I.V.-related symptoms, nutrition counseling and supplements, stress reduction and treatment for the more common opportunistic infections, including STDs and tuberculosis.
We have been a member of Global Business Coalition on H.I.V./AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — a not-for-profit group dedicated to fighting H.I.V./AIDS and related diseases — since 2002 and strongly support the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of which explicitly targets combating H.I.V./AIDS.
Let us know what you think about PepsiCo’s commitment to support the fight against H.I.V./AIDS.