Feature story

Business boost for Nepal’s AIDS response

24 May 2011

The Right Honorable Prime Minister Jhala Nath Kanal and Mr. Kush Kumar Joshi, Chair of FNCCI, unveil the BCAN logo.
Credit: UNAIDS

Nepal’s AIDS response has received a business boost with the launch of a national Business Coalition on AIDS (BCAN). The Coalition brings together multiple Nepalese private sector companies, leaders, innovators and industrialists to work collectively in the response to AIDS.

The Federation of the Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) launched the Coalition with the goal of reducing HIV infection among the country’s workforce. It is also expects that the Business Coalition will create a supportive environment for the care and treatment of employees living with and affected by HIV and their families. “This Coalition will work to remove stigma associated with HIV so that people living with HIV do not suffer from discriminatory treatment in the workplace and in society,” said Mr Kush Kumar Joshi, Chair of FNCCI.

In a high-profile event held in Kathmandu in May, Nepalese Prime Minister and Chair of the National AIDS Council, the Right Honorable Mr Jhala Nath welcomed the business sector as vital partners: “The Government of Nepal acknowledges with utmost appreciation this initiative from the business sector to be engaged and contribute to the country’s response on HIV. This is an important part of the business sectors’ response towards the social development of Nepal”.

Pioneered by business leader Mr Rajendra Khetan who also leads the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on AIDS (APLF), and who for many years has worked to bring AIDS higher on political, business and social agendas, the FNCCI-BCAN already has more than 1 500 members from across the country. These private sector leaders have underlined their commitment to put in place HIV prevention, treatment and care programmes to help maintain a healthy and competitive environment for their workers and their families, including those from key affected communities.

The Government of Nepal acknowledges with utmost appreciation this initiative from the business sector to be engaged and contribute to the country’s response on HIV

Jhala Nath, Prime Minister of Nepal and Chair of the National AIDS Council

In Nepal, estimated adult HIV prevalence is 0.4% but the country also has a ‘concentrated’ epidemic where estimated HIV prevalence among key affected populations reaches more than 5%. According to latest national reports, more than 85% of the newly reported HIV cases are among people aged 16-45, which is the most economically active age group.

“The most immediate way that business and the new business Coalition can take action is by protecting its greatest resource—its employees. In doing so, the Coalition is investing in the well being and morale of employees and communities, and investing in the sustained growth and development of Nepal,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator Marlyn Borromeo.

As a first priority, businesses within BCAN commit to ensure the implementation of the National Policy on HIV/AIDS in the Workplace which highlights the need for increased resources and action from the private sector on AIDS and the importance of protecting employees living with HIV and their families.

Ms Sita Shashi, President of Srijanshil Mahila Samuha, an organization of women living with HIV in Nepal, heralded the increased involvement of the business community in Nepal’s HIV response: [This] has enhanced our confidence that business can bring positive change; ensuring access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support in workplace; supporting economic empowerment opportunities for women living with HIV in communities and; promoting accepting attitude towards people living with HIV and their families,” she said.