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How do you overcome stigma and leverage the power of business and labor in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

AIDS is a leading cause of death among Americans ages 25 to 44, the heart of the workforce. But in the first 10 years of HIV/AIDS' existence, stigma and misinformation about the transmission of the virus was a contentious issue in offices and on unionized job sites. Businesses and unions were reluctant to address HIV/AIDS directly. CDC initiated a nationwide campaign to promote HIV/AIDS policies and prevention education in the workplace, and asked Ogilvy PR to help create outreach and education programs in support of this effort.

From our field research, we learned that in order to be accepted by workers, HIV/AIDS education had to be endorsed and initiated by senior management and labor leaders. In response, we worked with CDC to create Business Responds to AIDS in 1992 and Labor Responds to AIDS in 1995. The goal was to help business leadership educate workers about HIV/AIDS, and to thereby reduce its stigma. To accomplish these ends, the program was framed into five key areas: Workplace Policy Development; Manager and Labor Leader Training; Employee Education; Employee Family Education; and Community Service and Volunteerism. Ogilvy and CDC created an advisory panel, the Business and Labor National Partners Board, as a chance for thought leaders to serve as role models for business leaders throughout the country.

The next step was to bring information about HIV/AIDS in the workforce to employees, business leaders, and the media. We developed a variety of outreach materials and activities in support of the campaign, including posters, billboards, print and broadcast PSAs, direct mailings, educational videotapes, town forums, and national teleconferences. We built a web site,, to give business and labor one stop access to tools and resources, including a hardcopy and downloadable Business Manager's Kit and Labor Leader's Kit. We kept the media informed as well with national press launches, satellite news interviews, radio and TV talk shows, and video and audio news releases.

Our efforts to promote the HIV at Work programs had noticeable impact. Since the beginning, significant numbers of U.S. corporations, unions and small businesses have utilized CDC's HIV/AIDS in the workplace tools and technical assistance. In its first eight months, our online promotional campaign lead to a 440 percent increase in downloads of the Manager's and Labor Leader's Kits from the website and our TV, print and radio PSAs generated a 50 percent increase in calls to the Business and Labor Resources Services HIV/AIDS hotline. Most impressive of all, the National Commission of AIDS commended CDC's HIV/AIDS workplace programs as "the most successful, innovative partnership between government and the private sector." Ogilvy PR is proud to continue its association with CDC as it continues to support and expand the Business & Labor Respond to AIDS programs.