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World-class leadership against HIV/Aids
Standard Bank Team
Super Contributor

The number of people living with HIV has risen from around 8 million in 1990 to 33 million today, and is still growing. Around 67% of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.

With this in mind, Andee Deverell from the Strategic Issues Management Department at Standard Bank Group went to the 18th International Aids Conference in the hope of learning and understanding more about the pandemic. The conference recently took place in Vienna, Austria, with over 19 300 participants from over 197 countries attending the conference.

Andee is part of a team which tracks and monitors issues such as global HIV/Aids issues for Standard Bank Group. Following her return from the conference, she shared her experience with colleagues at a talk at Standard Bank Group’s head office on Johannesburg.

“We do social and political research and analysis for Standard Bank Group. We look at issues that present risks and opportunities for, specifically within the social and political space.”

“It is important to go to conferences to keep up with trends and research findings. The knowledge and information at the HIV/Aids conference is world class.

“In addition we want to understand the social context on how the epidemic has evolved and understand the new political pressures that have developed in the area to prepare risk mitigation strategies,” she explains.

Risk mitigation strategies are devised to minimise any risks to a company while still managing to maintain an optimum output.

Andee was asked if the conference gave her a sense of hope and optimism.

“First of all the conference left me motivated and re-energised to keep going and to re-look at our strategies. On the other hand it is concerning that there has been great scientific progress but because of the global recession there have been budget cuts and funding cuts to implement this research,” she said. “There is an overwhelming concern that there is a stagnation and retreat from funding.”

Andee points out that the conference was characterised by a strong militant activisim. “You can see the anger and aggression and a huge rise in passion for funding to be given. A huge amount of energy was channelled into the activist protests.”

There has also been a rise in human rights awareness. “Everyone has a right to treatment and care was the tone at the conference.”

The main focus for Andee at the conference was to establish whether Standard Bank Group’s policies and strategies were inline with the new research findings and the political environment in countries which we have a presence.

“Interestingly enough there was not a huge amount of discussion around work place programmes. Standard Bank Group in this sense is still way ahead of the curve.”

Deverell mentioned that one particular moment in the conference stood out for her.

“I met a high-ranking official from the Department of Health in India. It was fascinating talking to him. He mentioned that the world had a glamorous view of India with regard to its low crime rates and social cohesion. He said that crime was a real and escalating problem and that issues like HIV and poverty are major social problems.

“Even though India does not have the same prevalence of HIV/Aids as South Africa, the shear size of the Indian population makes it a huge problem. South Africa is really ahead of the world with its world class leadership.”

“This conversation made me realise that South Africa has come a long way.”

Deverell left the conference armed with knowledge, which will aid Standard Bank Group in its risk mitigation strategies – but more importantly, she walked away as a proud South African, confident that her country is facing the Aids pandemic head on.

***Caption for picture: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at a UNAIDS event at the conference, receiving a standing ovation. The event was filmed and aired live on CNN. On stage with him is the CNN host, Annie Lennox and the head of UNAIDS – Michel Sidibe - and the head of the International AIDS Society – Julio Montaner. ***