International organisations urged the business sector
yesterday to make the HIV/Aids epidemic one of the "bottom line
issues" at the workplace.
A one-day study programme, entitled "Thailand CEO study
mission on HIV/Aids", was organised by Thailand Business
Coalition on Aids (TBCA) to brief top management people about the
HIV/Aids epidemic's impact on businesses and their employees.
It was attended by more than 25 CEOs and senior managers
of leading firms in Thailand including Unocal, Nike, Siam
Commercial Bank, Thai Airways International and the Tourism
Authority of Thailand. The meeting was told that more than half
of HIV-infected people were young adults and mostly came from a
According to the UNAIDS, 85% of global HIV carriers are in
their most productive age (20-44 years) while in Thailand, 90% of
HIV-positive people are in the labour force.
Gunnar Walzholz, a technical specialist from the
International Labour Organisation, said Aids is already costing
businesses heavily and these costs will continue to rise if firms
do not respond quickly enough to the problems.
He claimed there were many ways for businesses to respond
to such problems including staff training on HIV/Aids as well as
a coherent non-discriminatory HIV/Aids workplace policy.
Anthony Pramualratana of the TBCA said at the moment there
were higher risk behaviours among the younger Thai population and
office workers than the rural population, indicating that
something needed to be done.
"I did not ask for the Aids issue to be the firm's top
priority but at least make it one of your issues," Mr Anthony
Sheila Macrae from the UNAIDS agreed that many firms may
not see this as an immediate issue but she believed some
Aids-awareness training for their staff would at least help to
contain and prevent the spread of Aids.
However, some Thai participants believed that it was more
difficult to make Thai people understand the HIV/Aids threat by
simply educating workers at the company level.
Amphon Saay-op-oua, an initiator of the 9-year Aids
training programme at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel suggested that
the government provide incentives in the form of tax reductions
or awards to firms actively involved in HIV/Aids programmes.