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Speaking on World AIDS Day on 1st December, Foundation President Robert A Lindsay said, “The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is a crisis of unparalleled proportions. In the face of this, all of us who care about the future of Africa must make an unprecedented effort to coordinate our resources and skills to fight together as one.”
He continued, “Our experience at Coca-Cola shows that the greatest success comes when we work in partnership with civil society. In addition to their immediate duties to employees and their families, businesses in Africa must ask how they can collaborate with civil society in the fight against this terrible disease. There is no panacea for HIV/AIDS but there is one simple truth: we are less effective in this battle when we fail to work together.”
Lindsay was speaking as Coca-Cola released an update of its HIV/AIDS activities in Africa. (See below)
At the heart of the company’s work is one of the most extensive employee healthcare programs in Africa. In November 2000, Coca-Cola launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program for its employees and their dependants. All 1,200 staff and their dependants have now been through prevention and awareness sessions and have access to life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
In September 2002, the company announced that it would work with its independent bottling partners to extend their existing healthcare schemes, where needed, to include a comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, awareness and treatment program for their employees and their spouses and children, thus making life-saving education and drugs available to a further 60,000 workers and their dependants. Coordinated by The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, this unprecedented healthcare project is a partnership between The Coca-Cola Company and its independent Bottlers. One year on, significant material progress has been made in rolling out the program.
Said Lindsay: “What we are doing is clear. Our employee healthcare program is operational in all 54 countries in Africa and has the full support of our bottling partners. Wherever possible, we are working to support these companies to implement the various components of the program. Already, over 63% of their employees on this program have completed education, prevention and awareness sessions, and a number of these have gone on to seek Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT). We are now at the stage where infected employees have begun treatment with antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs and we expect the number of these to increase significantly in the coming months.”
He continued: “Undoubtedly, this program has been most successful when our bottling partners have worked in collaboration with local government, medical providers, NGOs and grassroots organizations to reach out to the communities in which they work. Nowhere is this more relevant than when it comes to encouraging employees and their dependants to take advantage of opportunities for testing. The stigma surrounding HIV infection has created a climate of fear and suspicion that can only be broken down by skilled professionals. By supporting the work of these institutions, companies like Coca-Cola can make a hugely valuable contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS that is beyond them when they act alone.”
Collaboration and coordination is at the centre of Coca-Cola’s work on HIV/AIDS in Africa. Coca-Cola has worked closely with the International Labour Organization (ILO), Network of People Living with AIDS in Africa, UNICEF, and many others to leverage the company’s resources in the fight against the epidemic.
Working on the ground across the continent, Coca-Cola is involved in a full spectrum of partnership initiatives, from using its unprecedented distribution network to deliver contraceptives and educational materials to donating advertising space on billboards, radio and television to heighten awareness. Recently, Coca-Cola has been a partner to 46664, a global initiative by The Nelson Mandela Foundation that is using music to heighten awareness amongst young people of HIV/AIDS and to break down the stigma that is attached to the disease.
Lindsay concluded: “No one who lives and works in Africa can do so in isolation to HIV/AIDS, and no company appreciates the cost of failing to act now as much Coca-Cola. We are at the heart of every community and the biggest private sector employer on the continent. Our employees and those of our bottling partners across the continent are what make Coca-Cola the success story it is. Our commitment to them is, and always has been, unstinting. If we pool our resources and skills, and mobilize to fight against the ignorance and stigma that surround HIV/AIDS, we can make a difference. It is a challenge than none of us can fail to embrace with anything other than complete commitment.”
For more information on our existing programs, please see our website: www.aidsprogramsinafrica.coca-cola.com
Robert Ahomka Lindsay
President, Board of Trustees
The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation
Notes to editors
1. The Coca-Cola system, which incorporates Coca-Cola Africa and its 40 independent bottlers, is the largest private sector employer in Africa with over 60,000 employees. www.cocacolainafrica.com
2. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF) is the philanthropic arm of the company on the continent. It manages and funds the company’s community work in Africa and is located in Swaziland. www2.coca-cola.com/citizenship/foundation_africa.html
3. Coca-Cola has pioneered one of the first and most extensive private sector healthcare program in Africa. This program, which extends education, counseling and ARV treatment to over 60,000 employees and their dependants, is a partnership between The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and Coca-Cola Africa’s independent bottlers. www.aidsprogramsinafrica.coca-cola.com
4. World AIDS Day will be held on 1st December 2003. www.unaids.org
5. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation was recognized for its leadership in communicating HIV/AIDS awareness to young people by YouthAIDS in October 2003. www.youthaids.org
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