On World AIDS Day, we here at Levi Strauss & Co. are taking the opportunity to reflect on the progress made, honor the people affected by the disease – and look forward to the day when we can end the fight against HIV/AIDS for good.
Today, we are encouraging employees to volunteer with organizations focused on HIV/AIDS in their own communities. To symbolize our commitment to fighting the disease, every employee around the world is getting a hand-beaded ribbon from Wola Nani, an organization in Cape Town, South Africa that provides people living with HIV/AIDS the support they need to help them to thrive in society.
Our company has made it a priority from the beginning to address the issue in the workplace by: establishing a worldwide HIV/AIDS Workplace Policy supporting HIV-positive employees; raising awareness with annual HIV education for our employees worldwide; and adding HIV treatments to health plans.
The fight against HIV/AIDS is one we joined early on and continue today. In 1982, the Levi Strauss Foundation provided its first HIV/AIDS-related donation, matching employee contributions toward the Kaposi Sarcoma Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital – the first AIDS clinic in the world. The foundation has gone on to give more than $70 million to the fight over the years, and was recognized last year for its longstanding commitment to the cause.
We have also lent our voice to global advocacy efforts, from becoming an early member of the United Nations Global AIDS Task Force in 1994, to encouraging the corporate sector to explore the impact of HIV/AIDS on international business and communities, to calling on governments to end HIV-related travel restrictions in 2012. And we’ve continually mourned our friends and colleagues with panels in the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Our efforts have been recognized over the years – including a National Leadership Recognition Award from the National AIDS Memorial Grove in 2015 for Bob Haas, chairman emeritus, former CEO of LS&Co., former president of the Levi Strauss Foundation. In the early days, when little was known about the epidemic, Bob stood shoulder to shoulder with employees in the lobby of LS&Co.’s headquarters in San Francisco, to educate employee about the disease.
There have been huge advances in stemming the progress of this devastating pandemic – but there is still much to be done. Today, an estimated 36.7 million are living with HIV/AIDS, too many lack access to treatment – and there is still no cure. So, while we celebrate the victories, we remain committed to this fight until the end – the end to stigma, the end to discrimination, and the end of HIV and AIDS.