Panel Discussion: The Role of Business in Ending AIDS by 2030

Ian MatthewsArticle, News

During the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, GBCHealth and UNAIDS convened a panel discussion to highlight the imperative to end AIDS in the next 10 years, and to announce the Business Alliance to End AIDS by 2030. The Alliance is a public-private coalition co-hosted by UNAIDS and GBCHealth that brings together leading global and regional companies with the aim of reinvigorating cross-sector collaboration in the AIDS response for achieving impact at scale.

The panel discussion was moderated by Filippo Veglio, Managing Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and included:

  • Nolitha Fakude, Chairperson of Anglo American’s Management Board in South Africa
  • Patty O’Hayer, Global Head Communications & Government Affairs, Reckitt Benckiser
  • Nathalia Arcuri, YouTube Creator
  • Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS

They discussed the role of business in the fight against AIDS, and how practical solutions related to advocacy, workplace policies and business expertise co-created between the public and private sectors can be leveraged to provide businesses with the necessary tools and support needed to realize this historic goal.

The discussion focused on two main themes:

  1. What needs to be done in order to end AIDS by 2030?
  2. What is the role of business, and specifically the Business Alliance, in realizing this goal?

Regarding the role of business in the fight against AIDS, Ms. Byanyima made a call to business leaders, saying, “we need more – we need better – business action.” She later added, “Ending AIDS – leaving no one behind – will affect the lives of millions of people around the world, and business opportunities are enormous.”

Anglo’s Nolitha Fakude and RB’s Patty O’Hayer shared their perspectives, as representatives of companies deeply concerned about the AIDS crisis. Ms. Fakude shared how goals such as the SDGs and the 90/90/90 targets help business frame their conversations regarding sustainability, and how employee wellbeing is necessary for a lasting business. Ms. O’Hayer pointed out that while progress has been made regarding HIV treatment, there’s still a lot of progress needed in terms of protection and prevention. She stressed the importance of addressing stigma as it relates to HIV, for example social pressure not to wear condoms.

YouTube Creator Nathalia Arcuri’s insights focused on how to communicate to youth, to communicate about sex, and to change human behavior, given her experience educating millions through her YouTube channel. She pointed to the presence of human scientists – behavioral economists, social psychologists, etc. – at Davos as proof that the business community understands that people are moved by emotional and social messages as much as, or more, than they are by educational materials and data. She urged the community, and the Alliance, to focus on reaching the people who need to be reached, and encouraging them change their behavior in ways that resonates with them. Prof. Piot echoed this point, using the historical example of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation as an older example of the benefits of reaching people through cultural/social means.

Prof. Piot, who was the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS, urged the importance of collaboration, saying “we won’t make more progress… without involving everybody who… can be part of the solution, without broad alliances. We just are far too much in our own silos… If we’ve made great progress on AIDS, it was always when we were united. When we were divided, we lost, and the virus won.”

Regarding the Alliance’s activities, panelists stressed that the group will need to be disruptive; “What got us here won’t get us there,” said Ms. O’Hayer. Other suggestions by panelists were: to update data regarding HIV/AIDS, which can help inform future action; to create and deepen partnerships; to create the demand for necessary services; and bring in all sorts of businesses.

On final reflection, Ms. Byanyima said, “with this task of building a human economy that benefits all of us, we need visionary business leadership coupled with very concrete actions… We need companies from all sectors, not just [the] health sector, from all geographies – because AIDS is in every region – to step up as corporate citizens and accelerate the transition towards this new human economy.”

To learn more about the Business Alliance to End AIDS by 2030 and how you can join, please contact Matt Romney at mromney@gbchealth.org or Frauke Joosten at joostenvegliof@unaids.org.

Ian MatthewsPanel Discussion: The Role of Business in Ending AIDS by 2030