1 December 2011
Ever since 1988, 1 December has been designated World Aids Day - an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in tackling the epidemic, commemorating those who have died and supporting those living with HIV.
It's an issue of enormous relevance to our business for a number of reasons; the first of which is the scale of the epidemic. According to the UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), over 33.3 million people around the world are currently living with HIV/Aids. In 2009, there were 2.6 million new infections and 1.8 million related deaths. In sub-Saharan Africa - an area of crucial interest to SABMiller - some 22.5 million people are now infected.
The second point concerns our own responsibility as a business. Given our African heritage and the size of our operations in Africa, we have a clear duty to tackle HIV/Aids on the continent and this is why we have made it one of our Ten Priorities for sustainable development. And we are tackling it - through education and awareness training for employees and their spouses and dependants, through voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and treatment, and through programmes that reach beyond our businesses into local communities. Find out more about some of our initiatives around the world.
With the epidemic also on the rise in India, Eastern Europe and Latin America, our responsibilities clearly extend to these markets as well.
Thirdly, it's a battle that can be won. Recent years have seen major advances in the treatment of HIV/Aids and the illness is now considered to be manageable. Our own businesses have many HIV-positive employees who are on medication and who continue to live healthy lives and make a positive contribution.
SABMiller's targets for 2012 include distributing 20 million condoms in 6,000 outlets across South Africa as part of Project Promote, and launching couples testing in a further African market following the successful pilot in Uganda.
World Aids Day is a reminder that all of us - from large multinationals like us, through to every individual - can play a part in reducing new infections, tackling the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/Aids and cutting the number of unnecessary deaths.