January 1, 2004
Center for Business and Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government
Between 34 and 46 million people worldwide are now living with AIDS, with approximately 4.2 to 5.8 million new infections in 2003. While Sub-Saharan Africa is home to roughly two-thirds of these infections, the epidemic is growing quickly in other parts of the world, including three of the world's largest countries: Russia, China and India. Public health experts, economists, and demographers agree that this is a problem of massive proportions, likely to have a disastrous impact on human lives, as well as on fragile economies. According to UNAIDS, the virus will have killed 3 million people in 2003. For all of these reasons, businesses should have a natural interest in HIV/AIDS since the disease will have wide-ranging effects on their workforces, and more broadly, on their customers and the long-term demand for their goods and services, particularly in the face of globalization efforts. A recent World Economic Forum survey of nearly 8000 businesses covering 103 countries provides evidence for this intuition. The survey demonstrated 47% of firms felt that HIV/AIDS is having or will have some impact on their business.Clearly, businesses operating in places like South Africa with an adult prevalence rate of 20.1% -- the highest in the world--cannot ignore HIV/AIDS.