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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Nov/Dec 2006 : CSR

Corporate Social Responsibility

Fighting for the Greater Good
The Ford Foundation is waging a battle against the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, hoping to reduce cases as well as increase economic growth.

special to green@work


Tackling stigma and discrimination is fundamental to creating the kind of environment in which people living with HIV can flourish and contribute in a meaningful way. Around the world, wherever HIV spreads, people living with HIV often quickly establish networks of self-help, support and empowerment.

Targeting predominantly young and middle-aged adults who are the mainstay of the economy and the principal support of their families, the epidemic destroys the very fabric of societies. Particularly in places in which HIV prevalence is high, it hamstrings economic growth and makes the provision of social services more difficult. The impact of AIDS may be felt as an immediate shock, as when a family loses a breadwinner, or an organization a key worker. But at the wider community or national level, the impact is felt as the gradual accumulation of losses, and diminution of resources and options for change.

The Ford Foun-dation has launched a new initiative designed to empower women in the fight against AIDS, and ensure that they are at the center of international efforts to combat the disease. Worldwide, 17.5 million women are living with HIV. Three-quarters of those women reside in sub-Saharan Africa, while in the Caribbean region more than half of all adults living with HIV are women.

Advancing Women’s Leadership and Advocacy

Globally, women are increasingly affected by HIV, and now make up almost half of the 37.2 million adults living with HIV/AIDS. The UNAIDS/World Health Organization (WHO) AIDS Epidemic Update 2004 states that the number of women living with HIV increased in every region of the world over the past two years. The sharpest increase of 56 percent occurred in East Asia, followed by a 46 percent increase in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, the worst-affected region, close to 60 percent of adults living with HIV are women. Women in this region are up to 1.3 times more likely to be infected with HIV than men.

Through the initiative, “Advancing Women’s Leadership and Advocacy for AIDS Action,” Ford will build on its history of local funding for HIV/AIDS programs by directing additional resources to global efforts that strengthen leadership by building the skills of women and other groups most affected by the disease. Women are biologically, socially and economically more vulnerable to HIV infection, especially in regions hardest hit by the epidemic.

Women are physically more susceptible to HIV infection than men, and gender-based violence makes them even more vulnerable. Violence against women is well-recognized as a violation of human rights and also now as a public health issue—one that dangerously intersects with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For some girls and young women, their first sexual encounter is coerced; the experience or fear of violence is a daily reality.

With an initial investment of $650,000 from Ford for 2006 activities, initiative partners will provide women trainers with the skills needed to lead regional and national technical and advocacy efforts designed to stem the spread of the virus. Those efforts will include the promotion of better workplace policies on HIV, forging partnerships with religious institutions, advocating for greater availability of treatment, and urging governments to ensure that AIDS policies reflect the realities of women and their families.

Complementing the effort, a small grants program administered by the UNAIDS-led Global Coalition on Women and AIDS will support networks of women living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom will participate in the training program.

Building on 20 years of local partnerships to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS on five continents, the Ford Foundation has committed $45 million for a new initiative to help ensure that massive new global investments in medical and technological breakthroughs are matched by an equally significant focus on the social, political and cultural factors of the disease.

Ford’s Answer To The Global Reporting Initiative
In 2004, Ford Motor Co. became the first automaker in the world to release details of how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is affecting the corporation under terms of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The GRI is a multi-stakeholder process and independent institution whose mission is to develop and disseminate globally applicable Sustainability Reporting Guidelines.

The Ford HIV/AIDS report evaluates the company’s program using the 16 GRI indices, including risk management, contingency planning, performance, prevalence and incidence rates, current and future costs and losses, and stakeholder involvement.

According to United Nations (UN) data, nearly five million people became newly infected with HIV in 2003, the greatest number in any one year since the beginning of the epidemic. At the global level, the number of people living with HIV continues to grow— from 35 million in 2001 to 38 million in 2003.

The new five-year initiative was announced as the 16th International AIDS Conference opened in Toronto recently. As more funding and technology are brought to bear against HIV/AIDS at a global level, Ford sees a critical opportunity to more fully address the real-life social and behavioral issues that affect the success of HIV programs and services.

Dr. Jacob A. Gayle, formerly an HIV/AIDS advisor at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will head the foundation’s new effort, which builds upon the country-based activities of Ford Foundation staff in offices around the world. Gayle has been a leader in the fight against HIV for more than 20 years, heading up HIV/AIDS programs at both the United Nations and the World Bank.

“ Twenty-five years into the fight, there is renewed energy and great potential in the conviction to address AIDS at a global level,” said Susan V. Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation. “But with this promise comes a new and perhaps greater responsibility moving forward. We need to make sure that the global search for solutions reflects the local realities on the ground.”

The company will continue to work with communities, governments and agencies to address this humanitarian and health crisis together and acknowledge that even one death from HIV/AIDS is too many. Daniel E. Rosan, director of Public Health Programs for the International Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), concurs with Ford: “For shareholders, HIV is a business issue, not a philanthropic issue,” Rosan said. “Consistent, measurable reporting is essential to making competent judgments about shareholder value. Ford’s acceptance of GRI standards makes it a leader in the automotive industry on this issue.”


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