HIV/AIDS is a devastating disease that affects populations all over the world, particularly the young and productive industrial workforce in India. The cost associated with treating the disease is beyond the means of most persons living with HIV/AIDS. Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd (TISCO), recognizing that the most inexpensive and cost-effective approach to battling the spread of HIV/AIDS is through education and prevention, developed a Corporate Sector Model to prevent the disease.
After adopting a nondiscrimination policy between HIV+ workers and other employees, TISCO set up an AIDS Awareness Core Group in 1994. The Core Group is staffed by experts from various company divisions, such as Personnel, Community Development & Social Welfare, Corporate Communications and other departments. Charged with creating and implementing mass HIV/AIDS education programs in Jamshedpur, India, the Core Group initially conducted community surveys to identify at-risk populations and target areas. The results of this survey indicated that numerous sections of the community had high-risk behaviors and included truck drivers, college students, police and army personnel.
TISCO next established the AIDS Cell at Tata Main Hospital to coordinate its AIDS Awareness Program and provide treatment to employees and their families living with HIV/AIDS. The AIDS Awareness Program promotes a wide array of grassroots educational activities for employees and community members. It organizes street plays, called Nukkar Nataks, which present information on HIV/AIDS in a format that is both entertaining and easy to understand. The Program also trains employees to distribute multi-lingual information and materials to the community through census work, video van road shows, telephone helplines, free condom vending machines and general outreach.
In addition to its awareness program, the AIDS Cell provides testing, counseling and treatment for HIV/AIDS to employees and their families. The AIDS Cell offers nondiscriminatory treatment of AIDS patients and guarantees access to sterilized equipment and blood supplies. Doctors and staff are also trained to be sensitive to HIV/AIDS issues, and HIV+ patients are not isolated in separate rooms or wards. In fact, HIV/AIDS prevention and AIDS education is now integrated into all health education programs run by the company.
A third function of the AIDS Cell is serving as a liaison with local, national and international organizations to share information and expertise. It has networked with local community centers and non-governmental organizations, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), Confederation of Indian Industries, World Health Organization (WHO) and may other groups.
It is important to understand the impact of social structures and culture on communicating HIV/AIDS issues to the greater community. After recognizing that low-income women were unable to express their problems in existing outreach programs, TISCO partnered with the Ladies Core Group, comprised of spouses of CEOs in local companies, to conduct domestic management and pre-marriage programs. TISCO also gives HIV/AIDS education to tribal people though its Tribal & Harijan Welfare Cell.
Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd. values socially-responsible community and business practices and, in 2001, its managing director signed the HIV(+) & AIDS Control Policy, demonstrating the company’s continuing commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. In June 2003 the company was given the Award for Business Excellence in the Community by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS.
Since 1998, Tata Iron & Steel Company Ltd has trained over 1500 grassroots leaders to give HIV/AIDS education and has reached over 200,000 people in its AIDS Awareness Program.
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