African Health groups join protest against Global Fund, Heineken alliance

By Tunde Osho

More fallout has emerged from the recently announced alliance between Global Fund and Heineken. Health advocacy groups in Africa have joined to condemn the partnership between Global Fund, a government, civil society and private sector group that fights the spread of HIV, tuberculosis and Malaria in Africa with the Heineken Group, an alcohol firm.

Among the organisations that co-signed the letter criticizing the union are the West African Alcohol Policy Alliance, East African Alcohol Policy Alliance, and the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance.

“We understand the need to seek new financing mechanisms for global health and see the apparent benefits of building on the logistics developed by commercial enterprises,” the letter said. “However, we respectfully point out the dangers inherent in partnerships with the producers and marketers of hazardous products such as alcohol.”

The group note alcohol as a major risk factor in HIV transmission and its harmful use as a barrier to attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Partnerships with the alcohol industry are laden with inherent conflicts of interest,” the organizations add. “Transnational corporations producing and aggressively marketing alcohol rely on the harmful use of alcohol for their sales and profits.”

Heineken’s announcement to partner the Global Fund came during the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, as the Dutch brewer promised to share its expertise in logistics and supply chain management with health care delivery systems.

“Heineken will support efforts in countries in Africa where the company is present to improve the effectiveness of the ‘last mile’ distribution, which focuses on ensuring the right goods can reach health care facilities and patients in remote areas.

“This is already taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and Nigeria,” the statement released by Global Fund said.

Heineken CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said: “Heineken has been present in Africa for over 100 years, and saw first-hand the severity of the Aids epidemic on communities. We provided employees with voluntary testing for HIV and treatment for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, among others, from the start.

“We continue to do this today and recognise there is still a lot to do. Evolving our partnership with the Global Fund will allow us to work together in order to end these epidemics in Africa,” he said.