International business has vastly increased efforts to combat AIDS but many more companies must join the fight against the 21st century's greatest scourge, government and corporate leaders said.
At a dinner at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday night, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS hailed its expansion from 17 to 114 companies and speakers praised member firms like Standard Chartered Bank PLC, Tata Steel and Daimler-Chrysler.
"I commend ... all 114 members of the GBC for confronting the AIDS crisis directly," said US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called the AIDS pandemic "every bit as much of a crisis as Iraq."
Tata Steel, founded in 1907 and employing 43,000 workers, is India's largest private sector steel company. It was honored for a program to encourage HIV/AIDS prevention through mass awareness and prevention.
"We need to fight this as a war," said Chairman Ratan Tata.
Richard Holbrooke, a former US diplomat who is president of the New York-based coalition, warned that despite notable achievements -- including growing to encompass 4 million workers in 178 countries --more remained to be done.
Calling AIDS the 'ultimate weapon of mass destruction' that kills 13,000 people every day, Holbrooke said, "Most of the business community has still not done more than a fraction of what it should do. The harsh truth is that far too few companies are fully engaged yet in this fight."
While many companies don't do business in AIDS-ravaged Africa, the disease is fast spreading to other regions and helping arrest the trend is in the financial interest of all companies, Holbrooke said.
Chris Keljik, group executive director for Standard Chartered Bank, said his organization believes "all companies have a duty to care for their people and the communities in which they do business."
The 150-year-old bank, with 30,000 employees and operations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, was honored for campaigns to educate staff about AIDS and provide support services for those affected by the disease.