Speaking in Chicago last week at a forum for business leaders, Dr. C. Everett Koop, the U.S. surgeon general, urged the executives to be informed about AIDS and to inform their employees about the disease, how it is spread, and, most important, "why AIDS is not contagious at the work site."
It's good advice, well directed, especially considering that most companies, despite being in an ideal position to educate large numbers of people, have been reluctant to accept their responsibility and the golden opportunity to do as Koop suggests.
The Orange County business community, slow as it was to respond to the need for more company involvement in the problems of substance abuse and AIDS in the workplace, woke up ahead of most of the nation. To their credit, a group of top business executives from major Orange County companies--led by Walter Gerken, chairman of the executive committee of Pacific Mutual--got together six months ago to teach employers how to conduct in-house education programs and to replace with facts the misinformation, myths and fears that employees and their families might be harboring about acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
One result of that session and the speedy action that followed by Pacific Mutual and the 20 other firms active in the Orange County Business Leadership Task Force on AIDS and Alcohol & Drug Abuse is the 64-page manual "Facilitating AIDS Education in the Work Environment." The manual, financed with $70,000 provided by Pacific Mutual, has already been distributed to more than 10,000 companies throughout California. Now, it's also available to the business community nationwide.