Dr Wang Kai Yuen,
Chairman, AIDS Business Alliance,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Posed by HIV/ AIDS at the Macroeconomic and Microeconomic Levels
HIV/AIDS is a
potentially serious threat to economies, businesses and
At the macroeconomic
level, UNAIDS estimated a 2.6% drop in annual GDP when prevalence
rates pass 20%. The prevalence rate in Singapore is about 0.1%-0.2
A major reason for the
predicted negative impact of HIV/AIDS at the macroeconomic level
is the impact of the disease on the workforce. According to the
International Labour Organisation, nine out of every ten infected
adult will fall within the economically active age band of between
15 to 49 years old.
Posed by HIV/ AIDS to Singapore Businesses
In recognition of the
threat of HIV/AIDS to businesses, the World Economic Forum
commissioned the Global Review of the Business Response to
HIV/AIDS as part of its 2003/2004 Global Competitiveness Report.
This survey measured the business response to combating AIDS.
A total of 7,789
companies across 103 countries, including Singapore, were asked
about their concerns over and response to the threat of HIV/AIDS.
One hundred and twenty firms from Singapore participated in the
survey. Of these Singapore firms,
3 out of 4 companies
(73%) estimated that only less than 1% of their employees are
HIV positive; this is a reasonable estimate.
3 out of 4 companies
(76%) did not expect HIV/AIDS to have a serious impact on their
company both now and in the future. This will be true only if
businesses put in place preventive measures. Given the rising
trend of HIV infections in Singapore, businesses in Singapore
need to address the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in their
In Singapore, the
number of HIV-positive people has climbed steadily from the first
case detected here in 1985 to 2,641 by December 2005. Three out of
four (74.77%) who are infected are actively employed.
The increasing numbers
are a worrying trend because they are affecting our people during
their productive years. In 2005, out of the 255 new cases
reported, a great majority (87%) comprised the age group of 20 -
59 years old, with those aged 20 - 49 years accounting for as much
as 70% of all new cases. In view of this, government, businesses
and unions need to work together, and act decisively to stop this
One action we can take
is to bring to the workplace an AIDS education programme that will
educate workers on AIDS prevention and which will fight
discrimination against HIV positive workers at the workplace.
Through HIV/AIDS education programmes, employees can increase
their abilities and skills to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS
and develop more positive attitude towards people living with
It is my pleasure
therefore to launch such an educational programme called -���������RESPECT���������
- this afternoon.
RESPECT is an acronym that
stands for Rallying Employers to
Support the Prevention,
Education and Control of STI/HIV/AIDS
through the HIV/AIDS workplace education programme. This education
programme is specially developed by the Health Promotion Board for
"RESPECT" is chosen because this educational
programme is about:
seriousness of HIV/AIDS as I outlined earlier;
and knowing that one has the right to say "no" to unprotected
sexual partner and not jeopardising his/her health and
employees' right to correct information and education on STI/HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS Education Programme in Singapore Businesses
In Singapore, 43% of
the private companies already have a systematic infrastructure in
place to carry out a comprehensive workplace health promotion
programme. If these companies, and the rest of the private
companies that have yet to start a comprehensive workplace health
promotion programme, are to incorporate HIV/AIDS education into
their total human resource management and development programmes,
we can reach out to the private sector workforce.
and agencies should also set the example by incorporating HIV/AIDS
education as part of their existing workplace health promotion
programmes. Early this year, my Ministry and the Health Promotion
Board implemented a peer led HIV/AIDS education programme for all
our staff. This programme is adapted from the very successful
"Bridges of Hope" programme by the Standard Chartered Bank.
Last year in November,
a group of businesses came together to form the AIDS
Business Alliance. It is chaired by Dr Wang Kai
Yuen, Managing Director of Xerox Singapore Software Centre. The
Alliance includes representatives from the private sector -
Apex-Pal International, the American Chamber of Commerce, Keppel
Shipyard, Boncafe, Standard Chartered Bank, Merck Sharp & Dohme,
Four Seasons Hotel, and MediaCorp. It also includes representation
from NTUC, Singapore National Employers' Federation, SAF and the
Communicable Disease Centre. The Alliance is committed to
promoting HIV education in the workplace. To walk the talk, some
of the members like Xerox Singapore Software Centre and Apex-Pal
International have implemented HIV education for ALL their staff.
At Standard Chartered Bank and Merck Sharp & Dohme, HIV education
is a compulsory component of staff training. These companies are
setting an exemplary example for the business community to follow.
I am heartened
to see so many business leaders here today. I understand that
there are about 255 participants from 177 companies. By attending
today's launch, you have expressed your interest in joining the
business community to do something about the HIV/AIDS situation.
I am optimistic that
the RESPECT programme will act as a catalyst for
businesses to be involved in HIV prevention and education
programmes. Today's launch will give participants a sneak preview
of the various components in the programme.
Finally, I would like
to thank members of the AIDS Business Alliance for co-organising
and supporting the programme.