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
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