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Beijing, China, 5 November 2003 – Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the World Economic Forum and UNAIDS hosted today the first ever meeting of business, government and civil society in China discussing the potential role of partnerships to combat HIV/AIDS in China. Calling on all stakeholders to increase their efforts, the meeting highlighted the future economic impact of AIDS and its relevance to the business community. Chinese government representatives made it clear that business has a vital role in a comprehensive response to dealing with HIVAIDS. Business leaders called on government to reaffirm publicly their commitment to support wider efforts - including by businesses– to raise awareness, increase prevention activities and introduce treatment and care.
Dr. Shen Jie, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in the People’s Republic of China, emphasized that "AIDS has become a serious social and public health issue and requires immediate, strong actions from all sectors of society. Chinese leaders regard AIDS as a national strategic issue that has significant impact on peoples’ welfare, social stability and economic development. The Chinese Government also recognizes that AIDS control is an issue that can only be effectively tackled with coordinated efforts by all sectors of society – government, non-governmental organizations and private business sectors, as well as the local community. As the world's most populous country, China's experiences and lessons in AIDS prevention and control should have significant implications for the rest of the world."
Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) asserted that “we must address the stigma faced by people living with HIV. If we do not, all other efforts will be severely undermined. Business can play a big role in breaking the silence and reducing stigma.”
John Ruggie, Director of the Kennedy School’s Center for Business and Government explains, “unless China acts decisively, it will find itself on an African trajectory, just 15 years behind. In Africa, governments and businesses are looking back at what they should and could have done – in China, there is still time to avert the worst-case scenario.”
“Business views working with the Government and other key stakeholders as an essential component of a long-term investment in China, but they have to be able to talk about HIV as a business risk. But what stops this discussion is stigma – to overcome the stigma, business must talk to workers, to government and to each other. We must talk about AIDS, and then we must act,” said Dr Kate Taylor, Director of the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Initiative.
Building on existing cross-sectoral relationships and focusing on concrete actions that need to be taken by stakeholders, today’s meeting was held jointly by Harvard, the Forum and UNAIDS. It was the fourth in a series called “HIV/AIDS and Business in Africa and Asia: Building Sustainable Partnerships”. The previous workshops took place earlier this year at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts and at the World Economic Forum’s Africa Economic Summit in Durban, South Africa. For more information, visit the following websites: http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/cbg/hiv-aids/ or http://www.weforum.org/globalhealth. The results from all four workshops will be discussed at the World Economic Forum’s 2004 Annual Meeting in Davos.