Representatives of African businesses met with the Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation on 15 April in Johannesburg, South Africa, to explore partnership opportunities to reduce HIV infections and end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat.
The chairperson of the Champions, Festus Mogae, opened the discussion by emphasizing the significance of the private sector’s role in stepping up and amplifying the AIDS response across the continent.
Former Vice-President of Uganda, Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe, shared her story as a young doctor in Uganda at the start of the AIDS epidemic and warned against complacency. Alpha Oumar Konaré, former president of Mali, remembered the panic and hopelessness felt in Africa during the early days of the epidemic and how Africans had come together to decide that AIDS need not be fatal. He highlighted the need to build on current progress to keep young people safe and healthy.
Companies represented included pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer, leading South African health insurer Discovery, health-care company Aspen Healthcare and restaurant chain Nando’s. Other partners attending the lunch meeting included UNAIDS, the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of West African States.
During the discussion, representatives of major pharmaceutical companies underlined the need to find innovative ways of expanding HIV prevention programmes, with a particular focus on young people. In addition, they emphasized the importance of manufacturing medicines in Africa, including the active pharmaceutical ingredients, and stressed that the current demand on the continent would make the investment worthwhile.
Representing the private sector, Brian Brink agreed with the Champions that scaling up the AIDS response was imperative in order to avoid the epidemic spiralling out of control. He said that big businesses in Africa were ready to rally behind the cause of the Champions.
The dialogue with the private sector came at the end of a three-day meeting of the Champions, which included talks with South African President Jacob Zuma.