Coca-Cola to Offer AIDS Drugs to Employees in Africa

CAIRO, Egypt - Under fire from activists, The Coca-Cola Co. announced Thursday it was joining with its bottlers in Africa to extend AIDS health care coverage, including access to expensive drugs, to tens of thousands of workers, The Associated Press reports.

The U.S. soft-drink giant started providing coverage to its own 1,200 employees in Africa in June 2001, but the program did not cover the roughly 60,000 people working for Coke bottlers.

"What we are trying to do here is engage and offer a program for the others," said Robert Ahomka Lindsay, spokesman for Coca-Cola Africa. "It's a natural extension of what we've been doing the past two years as a company."

DaimlerChrysler and other multinationals operate similar programs for their employees in Africa, which is home to two-thirds of the estimated 40 million people worldwide now infected with HIV, which causes AIDS.

Under the new initiative, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, based in Swaziland in southern Africa, will split 50-50 with local bottlers the cost of extending health care benefits, including expensive anti-retroviral drugs, to their employees and their spouses.

Lindsay estimated the cost to the foundation at $4 million to $5 million a year.
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