Africa: Condoms with Coca-Cola? AIDS Campaign Widens the Net

Corporations such as Coca-Cola could use their extensive networks in Africa to distribute condoms if the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria succeeds in getting big business more involved. "We have not come to an agreement yet but the distribution of condoms is the kind of idea," said Richard Feachem, the fund's executive director. Feachem said the fund was in talks with two or three international companies, among them Coca-Cola Co., which are based or active in AIDS-ravaged countries, on ways they could make a bigger contribution to the fight.

"We would like to get a few, very concrete examples set up and running quickly to demonstrate how partnerships with the corporate sector can really make a difference," said Feachem. So far, the involvement of the corporate sector in battling the scourge, which Feachem described as unparalleled in human history, is disappointingly small. Few companies are listed as major donors to the fund, which has amassed a war chest of some $2 billion mainly from governments, since being launched in 2001.

"The needs of the Global Fund are far greater than the money already pledged. We need a lot more money and quickly," Feachem said. "If you look at current events in the United States, where corporate ethics are much in question, [it could become] even more important for corporate good citizenship to be demonstrated," he said.

Feachem said he was confident that the Global Fund would attract much more cash from governments, corporations and foundations once it was able to point to successes in fighting the disease. "When we talk of results, we do not mean declining death rates. That will take much longer. We mean more people under treatment, more people getting information about safe sex and the use of condoms," he said.

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