Cote d'Ivoire: A company reaches out to its employees - and its community (February 2006)

In late 2004, the Ivoirian Ministry of Health received an urgent call from Bardot, one of West Africa's largest slums and an international melting pot, in the port city of San Pedro. SOGB, a rubber company, was losing too many of its workers and their family members to AIDS, and company officials were looking for help. The Ministry's National HIV Care Program (PNPEC) conducted a site visit in April 2005 to assess the situation, setting in motion a PEPFAR-supported public-private partnership that now provides free HIV prevention, care, and treatment services for SOGB employees as well as the underserved surrounding community.

Company and local health authorities in the region developed a global action plan, and PEPFAR funded training of a physician and a laboratory technician at SOGB's medical facility. The company-owned health center is now open to the community and provides services free of charge. Further demonstrating its willingness to establish a strong and collaborative public-private partnership, SOGB provides laboratory services such as free hematological exams to all patients, including those coming from the public sector. The Emergency Plan also supports equipment for biochemistry and CD-4 counts for clients at the company's health center.

The 30-year-old physician at the company health center has a deep understanding of the family approach to HIV care and is committed to providing a comprehensive package of services to HIV-infected clients and their families. He participates regularly in weekly antiretroviral treatment (ART) prescription meetings. In accordance with national policy, the drugs are provided free to patients employed by the company. In August and September 2005, 44 patients started ART at the company health center, making up about 20% of all patients on ART in the region. During a supervisory visit, the physician reported that company officials are so enthusiastic about the program that they want to add a prevention of mother-to-child transmission program.

Through its leadership, SOGB has generated interest in extending the program among other major private companies, including San Pedro's sea port, which employs more than 3,000 people.

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