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Remarks by AIT Director Stephen M. Young at 2007 HIV/AIDS Summit the Human and Economic Impact on Business in Taiwan

OT0712E | Date: 2007-07-13

Minister Chen, Chairperson Ho, Dr. Twu, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a great honor for me to address this distinguished group of leaders who represent the front line in the global struggle against silence, stigma and discrimination in the battle to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Let me start off by saying something that is perhaps blindingly obvious.  HIV/AIDS poses as great a threat to international security and the global economy as terrorism and natural disasters.  According to the statistics, over 40 million people are infected with HIV globally.  This number could grow to 75 million by the year 2015.  Clearly this is something we need to take seriously.

In the early 1980s, when HIV/AIDS first appeared in the United States, our response was slow and clearly inadequate.  Over the past twenty five years we have learned some painful lessons, and we very much hope that Taiwan, and indeed the rest of the world, can learn from our mistakes.  The U.S. experience shows that a delayed response is a far less effective response.  It also shows that all elements of society need to respond.  This is not a battle that can be left just to international coalitions, governments, religious organizations or NGOs.  Business also must get involved.  Employers and workers share the same common interests with governments and the public at large.  In order to maintain productive capacity, we need to safeguard the health of working people.

U.S. companies, from multinational enterprises to smaller family-owned businesses, have developed comprehensive strategies for addressing HIV/AIDS in the workplace.  As a matter of fact, the direct impact of AIDS means increased costs and loss of productivity and is an overall threat to the foundations of the economies in which businesses operate.  Here in Taiwan, 70% of the infections occur in the under-40 year old population:  individuals in the prime of their lives, and essential members of the workforce.

In this environment, the involvement of business is crucial.  Taiwan, with its well-educated population and formidable scientific establishment, is better situated than most places to meet this challenge.  Workplace programs targeted at fighting the infection and the discrimination of its victims, and which ensure better medical treatment can produce significant results.

We have two very well-informed, qualified guests here today to discuss these issues.  The first is Dr. Anthony Pramualratana, who has traveled from Bangkok, Thailand, to speak at today's Summit.  He has been very involved in working with businesses in Thailand and throughout Asia.  In fact, he conducted HIV/AIDS workplace training for over 2,000 employees at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

The second guest, who joins us from the U.S., is Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ magazine--a magazine which promotes the vision that surviving AIDS and living a full life with HIV is possible.  Regan has done so much in fighting discrimination and stigma in the U.S. and we are very happy she could join us today.

Business is not alone in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  It is also a priority for President Bush and the American people, as demonstrated by the $45 billion committed by the White House for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  It is the largest commitment ever by a single nation toward an international health initiative.  The Emergency Plan has provided a huge increase in resources to provide treatment, care and prevention around the world.

Today, let me encourage the participants from local businesses here at this Summit to take action in three areas, if you haven't already:

  1. Establish an HIV/AIDS workplace policy in your own company;
  2. Set-up a workplace intervention program which includes training on prevention of HIV/AIDS and provides access to Voluntary Counseling and Testing services;
  3. Take action to stop discrimination against HIV-positive people in your workplace, and reduce the stigma of HIV in your communities.

If we all join in supporting these efforts, we can make a big difference.  We have seen it elsewhere.  Why not in Taiwan?

Finally, I want to state that AIDS prevention is everyone's responsibility.  If you care about your staff, if you care about the productivity losses in the next five to ten years—when those who are not HIV-positive become positive and those who are infected start to grow seriously ill—and if you care about Taiwan becoming an economic power, I am sure that you will make a commitment and contribute in a significant way to address HIV/AIDS in your workplace and communities.

Thank you for inviting me.  I wish you good luck, a successful Summit, and I will see you later this afternoon at the post-Summit reception.

Director's Speeches