Business Coalition against Aids: The Corporate Fight Against Aids
When on the 25th of October 2009 the BCAASL in collaboration with the National AIDS Secretariat celebrated its first anniversary; many of us media practitioners were only left to marvel at the seriousness and commitment which the Secretariat and the corporate community have ascribed in fight to hush the Aids Pandemic. More than any other institution, as the President of the Republic Dr. Ernest Koroma said during the launch of the programme one year ago; the business and employment world is able to fight the very important aspect of stigma and discrimination.
It was certainly a good thing to have noted from the Chairperson of BCAASL, Madam Alice Onomake that the coalition is an independent alliance of small, medium-sized and large businesses in the private sector that have seen the need to be committed to preventing the spread of HIV and mitigating the impacts of the pandemic within and outside the business community in the country.
This is a very commendable achievement as it should be seen as the quintessence of corporate social responsibility towards quieting of the spread of the disease.Â This development is also in line with the finding in the last sero-prevalence survey conducted in Sierra Leone which found out that the elite members of society believed less in the existence of HIV/Aids; but this development certainly serves as the right move to reverse such bad news.
Since its establishment one year ago, the coalition with assistance and technical support from the National Aids Secretariat in furthering its fundamental objective of harmonizing the communities and private sector in HIV/Aids prevention, made moves to strengthen the response through training and capacity building, mobilize and raising business and public awareness as well as advocated for strong political, business and community leadership.
The admirable thing about the BCAASL is that; it is wholly a member-driven organization, with its membership receiving significant growth in just one year of its establishment to include several big corporate, medium sized enterprises and smaller companies, including service providers, joining in the private sector initiative to fight and mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leone, all of which numbering into 30 business houses excluding other forms of membership.
Under the captaincy of Dr. Brima Kargbo UNFPA survey have certified that the National Aids Secretariat has been able to record significant gains in the fight against HIV/Aids in the country as the prevalence rate is said to have been steadied; with the fight against the pandemic to take a downward trend if all hands on deck work in that direction.
During the celebration of the first year anniversary of the BCCASL, NAS Director Dr. Brima Kargbo explained in very clear terms that his secretariat’s mandate is to assist National Aids Council headed by the President of the Republic fulfill its mandate of combating the pandemic by interpreting the National Strategic Plan and overseeing its implementation through coordination and administration support without direct involvement in the implementation of HIV/AIDS activities.
The fact NAS executes its coordination of all sectors in Sierra Leone through the establishment of an environment in which all stakeholders can carry out their activities in a synchronized and cooperative manner is a good indication that the fight to steady the trend in Aids is taking hold in the country.
In Sierra Leone, the private business sector employs that vast majority of the population especially those within the ages of 18-59 years and are also the most sexually active segment; so if they have been targeted in the HIV/AIDS campaign in the country, then there is bound to be certain success.
Information/Education and Communications Coordinator, Abubakarr Koroma once said during the formative stages of the BCAAL that the mission and vision of the coalition is to respond to the growing challenges of HIV/AIDS in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for employees infected or affected by the disease. This addresses the issue of stigma and discrimination that is prone at workplaces with limited education on HIV/Aids.
It is thus expected that Coalition would provide a platform for the private sector response to HIV/AIDS, and would be vigorously used to advocate for business action; assist companies to leverage their resources more effectively; facilitate sharing of best practices between businesses and ensuring a coordinated and nationally aligned business response.
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