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State Firms Urged to Join AIDS Fight

Companies, especially state-owned enterprises (SOEs) need to play a more active role in curbing the increase of HIV/AIDS cases, says a top AIDS expert and NGO head.

Wu Zunyou, director of the National Centre for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, said companies that are doing business in China could exert substantial influence in helping to combat the disease.

"Besides educating their employees to limit any high-risk behavior to reduce their chance of infection, companies could contribute money towards helping to raise AIDS orphans and play an active role in reducing discrimination towards AIDS patients," he said.

It only costs 1,500 yuan (US$183) annually to feed an orphan, he said.

A project helping AIDS-affected orphans improve their living conditions was launched on Wednesday in Beijing, thanks to a donation from the TNT group, a Fortune 500 company.

Also an express delivery, logistics and postal company based in Amsterdam, Holland, has promised to donate US$360,000 to set-up a special fund for AIDS-affected orphans.

Co-operating with the China Youth Development Foundation, the "Warm the World" project will use funds to pay for AIDS orphans' tuition and living expenses in primary and junior high schools.

At least 600 AIDS orphans in Dehong of Yunnan Province will be the first beneficiaries of the funds.

Speaking at a workshop on dealing with HIV/AIDS in China, Michael Shiu, director of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GBC) said that NGOs are trying to include more large-scale SOEs in China, as a way to curb HIV/AIDS cases.

He said they are trying to get SOEs more involved in projects aimed at bringing down infection rates of the disease.

Formed in the UK in 1997, GBC now has a membership of more than 200, mainly international companies, and is leading the business fight against the AIDS epidemic, while encouraging more businesses to get involved.

Some positive changes are taking place, observed Constance Thomas, director of the China Office of the International Labor Organization.

A regulation on HIV/AIDS Control and Prevention, which became effective in March this year, clearly banned discrimination against HIV carriers, AIDS patients or their families and encouraged donations and participation in HIV/AIDS prevention and control. 

"I am happy China is speaking up now about this issue," she said.

The US Department of Labor signed an agreement last week with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in China to launch a US$3.5 million program to deal exclusively with educating employees in Chinese enterprises about knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

(China Daily March 31, 2006)

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