Africa: Coke Boosts AIDS Attack
September 27, 2002
In a move that comes amid a growing chorus of criticism, Coca-Cola announced Thursday it will spend up to $5 million a year to fund HIV/AIDS treatment for Africans who work in the Coke system but not directly for the beverage company. Coke was already providing such benefits for its 1,200 corporate employees in Africa, but coverage was not available to most of the 58,000 workers in its bottling system, which is made up of 40 independent companies.
Coke's new plan will expand HIV/AIDS benefits and include coverage for expensive drugs. Bottlers will be expected to pick up at least 40 percent of the tab. Robert Lindsay, a spokesperson for Coke's Africa group, said the change initially will mean that 35 percent of Coke's bottling workers will have access to AIDS drugs. The goal is to reach 100 percent within a year.
"The recent announcement is due completely to activist pressure," said Sharonann Lynch, a spokesperson for ACT UP and Health Gap. She said Coke was "shamed into action." But Coke spokesperson Sonya Soutus said the company has long indicated it was working on an AIDS benefit plan for its African bottlers. ACT UP protested at Coke's annual meeting in New York this year. Protesters also assembled outside the company headquarters in Atlanta and at an International AIDS conference in Barcelona. Most recently, they have been organizing a "Global Day of Protest Against Coca-Cola" on Oct. 17. Lynch said they plan to go ahead with the event, even though Coke's announcement addresses many of their complaints.
Money for the new program will go through the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, which already has been involved with UNAIDS and other organizations active in Africa. Coke reported sales of $621 million in Africa in 2001 and income before taxes of $258 million. Coke partners in the new HIV/AIDS effort are GlaxoSmithKline, PharmAccess International and Population Services International.
09.27.02; Scott Leith
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.