Coca-Cola Africa To Launch HIV/AIDS Education, Treatment Program at 40 Bottling Companies
The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, PharmAccess Inernational and Population Services International yesterday announced that they will launch an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program at 40 bottling companies in Africa (Coca-Cola Africa release, 9/26). Through existing employee health benefits programs, participating bottlers will offer workers and their spouses access to prevention materials, voluntary counseling, HIV testing and antiretroviral drug treatment. The program will be implemented over the next 12 months in 19 countries and will be expanded to 37 other countries in its second year (PharmAccess International release, 9/26). Coca-Cola Africa estimates the program will cost between $4 million and $5 million per year (Coca-Cola Africa release, 9/26). Coca-Cola will pay half of the cost of the plan, and the bottlers will cover about 40% of the cost of the program. Employees will contribute 10% toward the cost of any treatment provided under the program, the Wall Street Journal reports (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 9/27).
Coca-Cola Africa has recently "come under fire" from HIV/AIDS activists because the company covers HIV/AIDS treatment only for the 1,500 Africans it directly employs, but not for the 100,000 workers who bottle and distribute Coke products under independent licensing agreements (Geitner, AP/Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 9/26). Sharonann Lynch, a spokesperson for ACT UP and Health GAP, said that Coca-Cola's actions are "due completely to activist pressure," adding that the company was "shamed into action." Lynch said that the groups were moving ahead on plans for a "Global Day of Protest Against Coca-Cola," which is scheduled for Oct. 17. Coca-Cola spokesperson Sonya Soutus said that the move to provide an HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program was "something that we always said we were going to do" (Leith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/27). Alexander Cummings, Coca-Cola African Foundation chair and Coca-Cola Africa president, said, "No single organization can stand up to AIDS alone, but Coca-Cola Africa and its bottlers are determined to do their part. ... This disease has no cure so we must focus our attention on education and prevention to help reduce the rate of new infections. We will also continue to work with governments, health care organizations, not-for-profit groups and others to see that Africa progresses in its struggle against AIDS" (Coca-Cola Africa release, 9/26).