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Ivory Coast: Condom Payslips Launched Model African AIDS Scheme

January 18, 2002

Ten years ago, workers opening their payslips at Ivory Coast's power company, Compagnie Ivoirienne d'Electricite (CIE), were surprised to see an unexpected gift from management: a free condom. Today, CIE's health scheme includes regular condom handouts, confidential medical care for 13,000 employees and their families and education for communities living around their main power installations.

"I've never heard of anything like it elsewhere," said CIE head of social affairs Angelique Wilson. At a meeting in Abidjan recently, CIE showed fellow African power and water companies how to set up similar programs. Africa is home to 70 percent of the world's nearly 40 million people with HIV. The incidence of CIE employees getting STDs, which increase the likelihood of HIV transmission, has fallen 65 percent, Wilson said. And thanks to a company fund, employees with HIV can get antiretroviral drugs. That sets CIE's project apart, as many companies in South Africa have been reluctant to offer antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive employees because of their cost, even after manufacturers' discounts.

Though Ivory Coast's infection rates are not as bad as some parts of southern and eastern Africa, it has the highest infection rate in western Africa: 10 percent of people ages 15 to 49 are thought to have HIV. "HIV/AIDS is a serious obstacle to the development of our nation," said Assana Sangare, the Ivory Coast minister charged with fighting the disease. "Let our work here be an example to the entire industrial sector in West Africa."

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Excerpted from:
01.14.02; Alistair Thomson

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