Although Standard Chartered is a British headquartered bank, only 1,300 of our 70,000 employees are based in the United Kingdom. The focus of our business is in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and our greatest impact on these markets is through our contribution to their economies. This means contributing to sustainable growth and leading by example in the communities where we operate. Many of these markets have high or increasing HIV infection rates, and the battle against HIV/AIDS is one that we fight every day.
According to UNAIDS, 33.4 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2008. The World Health Organization reports that Africa accounts for 68 per cent of new HIV infections among adults and 91 per cent of children. These are chilling statistics for anyone to learn.
From an employment perspective, the issue posed a specific problem: in 1995, we discovered that HIV/AIDS was having a detrimental impact to our workplace and our bottom line, as it was the cause of significant absenteeism in key African markets. It became our responsibility to do something to support the health of the communities we work in. We launched an HIV/AIDS education and awareness program, Living with HIV. The aim was to give our employees the key facts needed to make safe lifestyle choices. Today, Living with HIV has extended beyond the workplace to urban and rural communities in 50 countries. As part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Standard Chartered made a Commitment to Action to educate 1 million people about HIV/AIDS – a pledge that we've met.
Through our work and CGI commitment, I receive regular updates from our representatives, employee volunteers, and public heath representatives about the individual lives touched and the distance traveled to reach those in the most remote villages. In the Eastern Cape, community health workers ride on horseback to reach a rural community, carrying our Living with HIV mobilization toolkit with them in red bags. Other health workers organize face-to-face workshops at health clinics, community centers, and schools, often in remote areas where awareness is low. Through these efforts, Standard Chartered has been able to reach hundreds of urban areas and rural villages around the world.
Rosanna Fletcher is Community Investment Officer at Standard Chartered, a CGI member organization.