31 Mar, 2012
The Lanka Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS (LBCH) marked the continuation of its HIV and AIDS awareness campaign for year 2012 with the passing of the ‘awareness cushion’ to Mr. Susantha Ratnayake, Chairman of John Keells Holdings PLC.
The campaign launched earlier this year in an effort to highlight the importance of awareness, passes on a bright red cushion inscribed with the message “Pass on Awareness, not HIV” among the over 60 LBCH member corporates, which include leading banks and conglomerates in the island, signifying a challenge for organizations to take forward the AIDS awareness programme.
As a symbol of continued commitment by the local corporate community to help the nation combat the spread of the disease, the red cushion was passed on to Mr. Ratnayake, who heads Sri Lanka’s largest listed conglomerate, which has its own widespread campaign focused on the prevention of HIV and AIDS through education and access to correct information.
John Keells Foundation which has been a member of the Board of LBCH since inception, targets a wide scope of people from the employees of the John Keells Group, communities around its business locations, other corporate entities, most at-risk persons (MARP’s) and the general public. Since its launch in 2005, the campaign has educated a cumulative total of 42,280 persons as at 31st March 2012. In 2010 the Group rolled out a comprehensive action plan culminating in the adoption of an HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy across all its companies in Sri Lanka, becoming the first Sri Lankan conglomerate to do so.
Taking over the symbolic cushion, Mr Susantha Ratnayake said “John Keells is pleased to support this awareness initiative of LBCH. I must acknowledge the progress made by John Keells Foundation in driving awareness creation on HIV and AIDS both within and outside the Group, thanks to the contribution of many including our in-house master trainers.” In fact, the handover of the cushion took place during the latest Training of Trainers programme in progress at the John Keells complex, and the cushion was passed round the audience present.
The goal of LBCH is to leverage the business community to make a committed response to mitigate the threat of HIV and AIDS in the workplace and community. It provides a platform from which policies and awareness programmes can be coordinated and executed efficiently by pooling resources and knowledge that exist within the business community. LBCH works with its members to ensure that each of the organisations has an HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy in place, and provides on-going customised awareness programmes. Professional trainers conduct these programmes at no cost to member organisations.
Dr. Kishu Gomes, the current Chairman of LBCH, elucidated the impact of the potential threat from the epidemic on the nation’s workforce when he stated: “The biggest asset we have as a nation are the 8 million people in the workforce, and we as business leaders should recognize the AIDS issue and own it for a solution through early mitigation action. While Sri Lanka is considered a low prevalence country, given that the country’s economic growth is centered around tourism, foreign employment, trade, exports related travelling etc., our workforce has become highly vulnerable. The triple bottom-line focus with adequate attention to people is the way forward and we need to protect our people if we are to honour our commitment as business leaders.”
According to statistics, 9 out of 10 people living with HIV and AIDS globally are in the work force, which if not addressed, will threaten workplace productivity. As the number of persons living with HIV reported in Sri Lanka is on the rise, with approximately 2 new HIV cases reported every week, there is a need to recognize the magnitude of the issue and make a concerted effort on spreading awareness to mitigate the threat.
The creative concept for LBCH’s new awareness campaign was devised by the leading advertising & PR agency Bates Strategic Alliance which supports LBCH in its publicity.