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Global Companies Launch Effort to Battle AIDS - 2003-12-03

A U.S. delegation of congressmen, business leaders and government officials was in Kenya Wednesday for the launch of a worldwide program to enlist the business community in the fight against AIDS.

U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson was on hand to launch a new international program called Co-Investment Partnership. He said business needs to get involved in the fight against AIDS. "We have not done enough to incorporate the business community. We need everybody to join with us in this fight, a fight in a war that we cannot afford to lose," he said.

The idea behind the program is for businesses to team up with the Global Fund on AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to jointly invest in HIV-AIDS prevention, testing and treatment around the world.

The programs could receive funding from the Global Fund and the Bush administration's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Mr. Thompson said the coalition has more than 100 member companies worldwide that are committed to fighting AIDS.

He said some of them took the first step Wednesday. "There are nine companies here today that are going to pledge that they are going to use their resources and their companies to be able to assist not only their employees but the community at large to be able to fight this fight in the communities in which those businesses are located," he said.

Among the companies are DaimlerChrysler, Texaco and Heineken.

A prominent Kenyan industrialist, Chris Kirubi, said small businesses could really benefit from partnerships with large international companies and governments. "One of our biggest problem[s] in Kenya today and many African countries is the fact that we have a lot of small and micro-businesses that have no capacity to respond to HIV and AIDS issues. We therefore need the bigger companies to enjoin them in our programs," he said.

Mr. Kirubi says the combination of efforts from business, government and civic groups promises to bring help even to the poorest.