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International News

Africa: Keeping Alive

January 24, 2003

Nine years ago Rwanda was torn apart by bloody genocide in which an estimated 1 million people died when ethnic Hutus slaughtered their fellow countrymen, the Tutsis. More than half of the Heineken brewery staff members were either killed or fled the country. Only one senior executive, the personnel director, returned to work after the massacre. Rebuilding the staff took three years and cost the company $1.5 million for recruitment and training.

That experience underlies what has been Heineken's extraordinary response to the second great regional disaster, the epidemic of HIV/AIDS. The $9 billion Dutch giant has guaranteed antiretroviral drug coverage not only to its staff of 6,000 in Africa but also to their immediate dependents.

Over the past year, Heineken has been treating employees in Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, where one in eight people is infected with HIV. The company is rolling out the program in four other countries -- the two Congos, Nigeria and Ghana. Countries with rickety hospitals and laboratories -- Sierra Leone and Chad -- or where Heineken has only a minority stake in breweries -- Angola and Morocco -- will be last.

Heineken, which had net profits of $1.2 billion in its last fiscal year, expects to spend $2 million a year treating workers in Africa.

Paying for the drugs is the easy part for Heineken. Everything else has been a struggle. Problems include bringing drugs into Nigeria -- the government imposes 20 percent import duties on all medication -- and persuading airlines to carry HIV-infected blood from countries like Sierra Leone, where there are no labs equipped to carry out AIDS tests.

Back to other CDC news for January 24, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
02.03.03; Silvia Sansoni

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More News on HIV/AIDS in Rwanda