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      US envoy for corporate approach to combat

      Posted AtNew Kerala

      Kolkata: US Ambassador David C. Mulford Thursday called for a four-pronged approach from the corporate sector to tackle HIV/AIDS in India, which he said was at the "tipping point" in the curve of an epidemic.

      Calling for strong commitment from the private and public sectors, Mulford said action should be taken to establish a workplace policy for HIV/AIDS in companies.

      "A workplace intervention programme which includes training on prevention of HIV/AIDS and providing access to voluntary counselling and testing services needs to be set up," he said here while addressing the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

      "Indian companies should also take action to stop discrimination against HIV-positive people at the workplace and reduce the stigma of HIV in communities."

      Mulford called on Indian companies to sponsor anti-retroviral drug treatment and to care for employees and their families.

      "Unfortunately medium and small scale enterprises are not involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We need to expand efforts to include workers in the informal sector. They are highly vulnerable to the disease but have the least access to healthcare," he observed.

      The Indian government's ambitious programme to provide free anti-retroviral drugs to 100,000 people by 2007 was only a start, with political commitment to fight HIV increasing, he said.

      "India is one of the five high priority countries under President George Bush's HIV initiative. In 2005, we are providing $30 million towards AIDS control in India. US government agencies are working in high prevalence states, including the northeast," Mulford noted.

      The US, he said, is working with India's National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and private sector representatives to set up a corporate fund to tackle HIV. "The fund will be managed by a private financial institution," he said.

      India has over five million HIV/AIDS cases.

      August 18, 2005


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