SWHAP was honoured to have been invited to be part of the official Swedish delegation to the 2016 High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS held in New York at the beginning of June. The meeting focused “the world’s attention on the importance of a Fast-Track approach to the AIDS response”. During the meeting United Nations Member States agreed to reach ambitious targets by 2020 including, “fewer than 500 000 people newly infected with HIV, fewer than 500 000 people dying from AIDS-related causes and the elimination of HIV-related discrimination” in order to end AIDS by 2030 (UNAIDS).
The Fast Track strategy forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular Goal 3, ensuring “Good health and wellbeing” for all. It encapsulates a broader approach to addressing HIV and AIDS, recognising other factors that will contribute to successful delivery such as gender equality, laws and policies that block effective implementation of HIV responses, reducing inequalities and promoting partnerships amongst stakeholders.
Achievement of the targets laid out in the SDGs requires a tremendous financial investment that many governments will not be able to match alone and there is growing consensus on the important role the private sector must play. Along with financial resources the private sector has structures, skills, technology and innovative solutions that can contribute to the achievement of the targets.
For business this is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes business sense as the SDGs strengthen the environment for doing business, through for example, mitigating operational risk and increasing social and political license to operate. Specifically, where HIV and AIDS are concerned, an actuarial cost impact assessment conducted for SWHAP revealed that companies that invested in comprehensive wellness management and sexually transmitted infections (STI) programmes and earlier initiation onto treatment for positive workers could potentially make a 47% saving on the loss that would be incurred if no programme was initiated.
Comprehensive workplace programmes with prerequisite HIV and wellness policies protect the rights of all employees and address many structural barriers to testing, which is the key entry point to treatment, care and support. Moreover, as has been the experience within the SWHAP network, partnership with Unions can result in higher testing outcomes as Unions advocate for members to participate in programmes.
Many workplace programmes also address the gender dimensions of HIV and create platforms for raising awareness on the sexual and reproductive health rights of traditionally stigmatised groups such as men who have sex with men and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexed (LGBTI).
There is a clear business case for private sector engagement in the SDGs and in particular ending AIDS. It represents an opportunity to create shared value and contribute to sustainable development for all. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are the way forward, together we can end AIDS in this generation.