ART and HEART: A Public-Private Success Story

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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 company employees as well as the underserved surrounding community.

Company and local health authorities in the region developed a global action plan, and the PEPFAR-supported Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation funded training of a physician and a laboratory technician at the company’s medical facility as part of its HEART Project. The private company-owned health center is open to the community and provides services free of charge. Further demonstrating its willingness to establish a strong and collaborative public-private partnership, the company provides laboratory services such as free hematological exams to all patients, including those coming from the public sector. EGPAF also provided equipment for biochemistry and CD4+ counts for clients at the company’s health center.

The 30-year-old physician 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 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.

Although it is too early to evaluate whether the intervention has resulted in a decrease in mortality or morbidity, the commitment of this private employer has generated interest in extending the program to other major private companies in the region, including the sea port, which employs more than 3,000 people.