May 22, 2006

Business pledges more help to fight AIDS in Africa

LONDON (Reuters) - Four leading companies pledged to do
more in the fight against AIDS in Africa on Monday, in a move
designed to spur other corporations into action.

The initiatives come on the heels of rock star Bono's "Red"
scheme, under which companies with global brands -- from credit
cards to clothing -- agree to channel a portion of profits to
the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Executives and policymakers are attending a Global Business
Coalition on HIV/AIDS meeting at Reuters Group Plc headquarters
in London to discuss ways to tackle the pandemic, which has
already killed 25 million people.

A key objective is finding new ways to mobilize resources
for the Global Fund, which provides life-saving medicines and
money for HIV prevention programs to developing countries.

Standard Chartered Plc, which has extensive banking
operations in Africa, said it was offering to second staff to
help countries manage HIV/AIDS projects more efficiently.

International consultancy Accenture is also providing
management expertise, while Nike Foundation and Becton
Dickinson Co. are each giving $200,000 for support programs.

Companies around the world are becoming increasingly
concerned about the impact of AIDS, according to a survey in
January by the World Economic Forum, which found 46 percent
expected it to affect their operations in the next five years.

With an estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS
worldwide and a record 4.9 million new infections last year,
the disease has the potential to cripple economies and decimate
workforces, hitting the bottom line of many businesses.

Standard Chartered, for example, calculates that more than
10 percent of its Kenyan employees are off work every day as a
result of AIDS, either because they are sick, are caring for
relatives or are attending a funeral.