Issue Papers: International Access to Pharmaceuticals
Church Council Actions
Caring for Health: International Access to Pharmaceuticals
RECOMMENDED by the Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 6, 2003.
ENDORSED by the Board of the Division for Church in Society,
October 24, 2003
APPROVED by the Church Council
November 2003 (see 2003 version)
UPDATED by Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 27, 2007
APPROVED by Church Council,
UPDATED by Advisory Committee
on Corporate Social Responsibility, September 10, 2010
APPROVED by Church Council,
“God creates human beings as whole persons—each one a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Health concerns the proper functioning and well being of the whole person” (“Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor,” Biblical and Theological Perspectives, page 3 ). “We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have an enduring commitment to work for and support health care for all people as a shared endeavor” (Introduction, page 2).
Bearing in mind these principles, one is obliged to consider the effects of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis (TB) in Africa and other countries. Infectious diseases threaten to reverse development gains, reduce life expectancy and cut productivity and income. According to the World Health Organization in 2008 33.4 million people globally were living with HIV with 2.7 million new cases identified each year. Malaria affected an estimated 243 million people in 2008. Over a million people die annually from TB worldwide and TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. 
Ecumenical work on the African continent (in which the ELCA participates) shows that nearly 2 million Africans are infected annually with HIV. What will this do to the continent’s society, work force, economy, political stability, and hope for the future? Nine million people need antiretroviral medication to combat the disease in developing countries, yet less than 33% have access to such life saving medicines. 
II. ELCA Social Policy
The ELCA social statement “Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor” (August 2003) develops the Church’s vision of health, illness, and healing. It calls for equitable access as a matter of both love and justice and for international cooperation in public health efforts, including preventing and combating infectious diseases.
In 2009 the Church Council (CC09.03.23) adopted the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS.  The strategy seeks to halt the spread of HIV, reduce stigma and discrimination and reduce the conditions of poverty and the marginalization that contribute to the spread of HIV. This strategy calls for the corporate social responsibility program to advocate with corporations on these goals as well as achieving universal accesses. In 2002, the ELCA Church Council (CC02.11.59)
approved a shareholder resolution requesting that pharmaceutical companies in which the ELCA holds corporate shares support national and international efforts to make generic antiretroviral (ARV) drugs accessible to people living with HIV and AIDS in countries in need.
Compassion, Conversion, Care: Responding as churches to the HIV/AIDS pandemic; an action plan of The Lutheran World Federation  (January 2002) develops the basis for the Lutheran Communion’s role in responding to the pandemic. Simply put, the church itself has HIV/AIDS. This disease and its effects provoke a significant challenge to the whole community. In its action plan, the LWF puts forth 12 actions to counter HIV/AIDS which can serve also as a framework for advocacy at the governmental and corporate level:
Gaining knowledge and raising awareness;
Training of leadership;
Connecting of experiences;
Ensuring gender sensitivity;
Telling the truth about sexuality and sexual practice;
Promoting and making visible church reflection processes;
Articulating a “prophetic presence”;
Providing educational resources;
Ensuring financial resources;
Connecting to civil society and government;
For the healing of the world.
III. Corporate Response
Publicly held United States corporations face the pandemic in many ways. It makes good business sense for companies to respond to the epidemic because of the direct impact of HIV/AIDS on business. These impacts include increased costs, loss of productivity, and overall threats to the foundations of the economies in which they operate. The current and future workforce is placed at increasingly high risk as the epidemic disproportionately affects people during their most productive years. 
The global corporate community, including the pharmaceutical sector, must become part of the solution to the health challenges of HIV/AIDS, especially in developing countries.
IV. Social Criteria Investment Screens
A screen is a pre-existing framework of principles specific to an issue by which a company’s activities are evaluated. None currently apply to this paper.
V. Resolution Guidelines for ELCA – Issue specific
1. We support reports about the health pandemic and economic impact on a company’s operations and their business strategy.
2. We support resolutions asking for the establishment and implementation of standards for responding to the health pandemic.
3. We support the development, in consultation with appropriate United Nations and related intergovernmental agencies, of ways to offer accessible drug treatments to people in developing countries.
VI. Resolution guidelines for ELCA – General
4. We support practices of good governance, specifically:
* a company having an independent chair or independent lead director;
* reports on policies and procedures for political contributions and expenditures (both direct and indirect made with corporate funds;
* reports on any portion of any dues or similar payments made to any tax exempt organization that is used for an expenditure or contribution which might be deemed political; and
* guidelines or policies governing the company’s political contributions and expenditures.