CEOs of commercial companies teach sexual education at Estonian high schools

 

 

This campaign was launched a year ago. In 2010 a number of directors and managers of well-known Estonian companies talked at high schools about HIV and AIDS and the prevention of it. Amongst the volunteers were HR director of Swedbank Estonia, Signe Kaurson; director of Johnson & Johnson AB Estonia, Ingrid Purga; public relations manager of Coca-Cola Baltic, Annikky Lamp; TBWA/Guvatrak managing director, Erko Karing and many others. The volunteering teachers visited altogether 15 schools and gave 41 classes all over Estonia. Some of of the CEOs taught up to five different classes in a single school. The aim of the project is to inform young people about how to protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV/AIDS and dispel myths that surround it.
In the beginning the pupils were slightly surprised that the classes about HIV/AIDS were taught by well-known businessmen and not by teachers or doctors. But all the CEOs had completed trainings at the Health Estonia Foundation and managed to make the young people listen attentively. The feedback from pupils and school teachers was very positive.

Estonian business Coalition on HIV/AIDS

In 2007 Health Estonia Foundation launched a workplace HIV prevention project in cooperation with restoran Olde Hansa, Tere AS and Swedbank Estonia. The first step was to organize a HIV prevention campaigns and trainings among these companies. In autumn 2007 five Estonian companies (Swedbank Estonia, Statoil AS, Hill & Knowlton, TNS Emor and Nordecon AS) founded „Estonian business Coalition on HIV/AIDS“. There are eleven companies in this coalition now (besides founders except for Statoil as well Johnson&Johnson AB Estonia, Radisson BLU Hotell Tallinn, TBWA/Guvatrak, Coca-Cola Baltic , Rimi Eesti Food, DHL Estonia and Boehringer Ingelheim Estonian filial). Directors of these companies have organized HIV prevention campaigns and trainings in their workplaces. The aim of the coalition is to work in the following three directions:
• Raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in workplace (employees and their families) by running HIV/AIDS workplace campaigns;
• Shape the attitudes and behavior on HIV/AIDS in general public by designing and executing impactful prevention activities (e.g. public rapid testing events to encouraging people to do HIV tests);
• To increase the societal and political will by reducing stigma and discrimination and expand the contribution of businesses in tackling the HIV epidemics by inviting more members to the coalition and encouraging more companies to run workplace campaigns.
During 2007-2010 the coalition members have donated about 128 000 Euro for HIV prevention. By now 7000 workers in Estonia have completed the HIV/AIDS awareness training.

372 new HIV infected in 2010

A concentrated HIV epidemic was announced in Estonia in 2001. Last year 372 new HIV infected people registered in Estonia – which puts Estonia in the first place in Europe. In fact, the epidemics is growing nearly 10 times faster than the European average. There are currently 7741 registrated HIV positive persons in Estonia. Unfortunately there are in addition estimately 4000 persons who do not know that they are HIV positive. Every 80th working person in Estonia is HIV positive. Since 2001 the situation has drastically changed: HIV is now spreading not only in risk groups (injecting drug users, sex workers) but also amongst the general population. Almoust half of the new cases are infected through sex. 75% of people in Estonia have not been tested for HIV and are not even aware of the danger. That is why these 11 companies started the coalition campaign against HIV and have donated a 128 000 Euro for training people about HIV/AIDS awareness.

Practice what you preach

Keit Fomotškin, executive director of Health Estonia Foundation points out that Estonian people are much better informed about the dangers of HIV and AIDS than two of five years ago. Most people knows, that it´s important to talk about HIV to their children and partner, they know about the importance of using condoms and testing HIV. They have all the important information about HIV and AIDS but when it comes to their own lives it often happens that they do not use their knowledge. People still find it embarrassing to buy condoms or talk about HIV to their own children and partner. The next step is to overcome this barrier and make people use their knowledge in practice. People have to stop thinking that HIV is a problem concerning "other people". The coalition companies therefore have to come up with new energy and volunteering action, Keit Fomotškin said. Activism and volunteering has proven to be more effective in a shorter amount of time.
The Estonian state and NGO sector organisations also deals with this challenges. Role of coalition is to bring the private sector as an active partner to the response against HIV/AIDS in Estonia. HIV/AIDS workplace campaigns and public events (like rapid testing campaigns), done with National Institute of Health Development and Estonian Network of People Living With HIV, has been effective and helps to suceed in Estonian main goal – to stop HIV epidemic.