Walking the Walk: Pushing the Boundaries of the HIV/AIDS Response

Levi Strauss & Co.
July 15, 2015

This Sunday’s SF AIDS Walk marks 28 years since the organization’s inaugural event in 1987. As a pioneering leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Levi Strauss & Co. has been participating in the walk since the very beginning. Over the years, our Team 0501 has raised more than $23,000 and mobilized close to 1,000 registered walkers.

From Grassroots Education to Global Leadership

Our corporate response to HIV/AIDS dates back to before the disease even had a name. In 1982, employees, concerned about a misunderstood and often fatal disease, asked to distribute educational materials at our corporate headquarters in San Francisco. Company leaders, including then-CEO Bob Haas showed their support from the start — standing shoulder-to-shoulder with employees passing our pamphlets in the lobby.

Since those early days, we’ve developed a comprehensive corporate strategy to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace and around the world through education, policy change and human rights advocacy. We believe that the epidemic is more than a medical condition. It’s also a matter of eliminating the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Here’s a small sampling of the pioneering actions we’ve taken over the years:

  • In 1982, the Levi Strauss Foundation provided its first HIV/AIDS-related donation, matching employee contributions towards the Kaposi Sarcoma Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital – the first AIDS clinic in the world.
  • We integrated HIV/AIDS education within new employee orientation in the U.S. in 1988.
  • In 1991, LS&Co. was first in the apparel industry to institute “Terms of Engagement” and Global Sourcing Guidelines, which emphasize human rights, non-discrimination, health and safety for local contractors and suppliers.
  • The company represented U.S. businesses at the United Nations International Labor Organization HIV/AIDS Workplace Standards meeting in 2001, which resulted in a global model for HIV/AIDS workplace policy.
  • In 2004, the Levi Strauss Foundation became the first corporate foundation to support the Syringe Access Fund, advocating access to clean syringes for injecting drug users as a critical measure to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS.
  • Levi Strauss Foundation began supporting ALAFA (Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight AIDS) in 2007. This first-of-its-kind NGO model addressed HIV/AIDS in factory settings.
  • We established a first-of-its-kind global mechanism in the workplace to deliver HIV/AIDS education and facilitate confidential reimbursement of HIV/AIDS services for LS&Co. employees and dependents in 2009.
  • In 2012, our Chip Bergh led a pledge calling on governments to end HIV-related travel restrictions

Today, our HIV/AIDS partnerships support community organizations in more than 40 countries that focus on educating apparel workers about HIV/AIDS, eradicating discrimination against people living with HIV and providing assistance to those most vulnerable to infection. We, together with the Levi Strauss Foundation, remain the longest continuous corporate supporter of the issue.

Although there have been great advancements in preventing and treating the disease, there is still much work to be done. LS&Co.’s Team 0501 is currently fundraising for this year’s SF AIDS Walk — all donations help fund organizations working to end the HIV/AID epidemic.