Why Chevron is in the Business of Stopping HIV: Each year mother-to-child transmission of HIV affects 70,000 babies in Nigeria
Deji Haastrup, pictured below, is the general manager of the Policy, Government and Public Affairs Department of Chevron Nigeria Ltd. He oversees the PROMOT project, a partnership between Chevron and Pact, an international NGO that supports community-based organizations and trains local health workers to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Haastrup recently answered a few questions from NextBillion Health Care about the partnership and about how Chevron views its role in health care at the BoP.
Kyle Poplin: How big a problem is mother-to-child transmission of HIV? How much progress has been made fighting it?
Deji Haastrup: Nearly 900 children are born with HIV every day. The virus is passed on to them unknowingly by their mothers – either in the womb, at birth or through breastfeeding. In my country, Nigeria, nearly 70,000 children are born with HIV each year, which is close to 20 percent of the global total. So for us, it is a big problem. Especially because ending HIV transmission from mother to child remains one of the most achievable ways to realize an AIDS-free generation, ending new infections and finally turning the tide on HIV/AIDS.
The global community, including Chevron, has made a commitment to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015 to improve maternal, newborn and child health. In fact, Chevron pledged a total of $26.1 million toward this goal. This type of cooperation and commitment is a strong signal that we are headed in the right direction, but the truth remains that this challenge is very real for women and their children around the globe. And sadly, this is especially true for Nigeria, which is why Chevron has committed to addressing this issue through programs like PROMOT. Focused on supporting local health workers to increase medical services and awareness around this issue, PROMOT has been through a very successful pilot year and we are now announcing the expansion of the program across Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta.
KP: What led Chevron to focus on this issue, in Nigeria, as opposed to the many other health issues at the base of the pyramid?
While fighting AIDS is not our core business, it is core to the success of our business. As a company, we depend on a healthy society. Some of our largest operations are located where the grip of AIDS is the strongest. When public health issues put employee productivity and community well-being at risk, it is a business issue that demands action. A mother who has HIV or AIDS has a 15 to 45 percent chance of passing HIV to her child. With effective interventions this rate can be reduced to less than 5 percent. We know this impact very well, because we’ve seen the positive results education, voluntary testing and counseling, antiretroviral therapies, safe delivery practices and breastfeeding protocols have had within our own workforce. Chevron has implemented WHO-recommended practices within our own workforce and as result, for 13 years in Nigeria, Chevron has had no reports of mother-to-child transmission of HIV among its employees or qualified dependents that are participating in our voluntary programs.
It’s because of our own vested interest in fighting the disease and our experience in doing so that we’ve built partnerships with organizations that can affect change across communities where we operate.
KP: How important is it to get local community-based organizations involved in the effort?
The PROMOT project in particular focuses on working with local, community-based organizations to train health workers because we know the success of this approach. Through this model, we have been able to build the capacity of these organizations, and then in turn they have been able to work directly with local health workers who conduct village meetings and home visits, bringing appropriate education and assistance to those who need it in their community. By involving community-based organizations, we are able to increase local awareness of the disease and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT). By doing so, we are not only providing testing and medical services, but engaging a whole community in reducing the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS and improving awareness and knowledge. Most importantly, this capacity-building approach enables these local organizations to carry on work in PMTCT beyond the life of the project, ensuring sustainability.
This type of hub and spoke approach throughout the community has magnified Chevron’s impact. Through the program, 148 health workers have received close to 6,000 hours of training and reached 6,500 community health workers and 7,000 women across Bayelsa state in Nigeria. These results are just from the first year of the pilot program.
And so what we’re hoping to do is scale up and deepen the success that has already been accomplished. We want to be sure that this program is sustainable. We hope to develop a sustainability plan alongside local government management teams and state ministry of health senior management teams to ensure the longevity of this approach.
KP: The PROMOT project is sponsored by the nonprofit Pact. What does Chevron find attractive about public-private partnerships?
Partnership is essential to the success of our work. We have partnered not just with Pact on the PROMOT project, but also with the state ministry of health and community-based organizations to ensure that our efforts not only speak to current context on the ground, but also build on what programs are already in place.
Chevron has been in Nigeria for 100 years – that is a long time to know a country. We know very well that our employees and our workforce live daily in the grip of HIV/AIDS. From our PMTCT efforts and successes we’ve had thus far, we’ve seen the possibilities that collaborative partnerships can bring to maternal and child health as it relates to AIDS. We’ve also seen the power of the partnership model with all of Chevron’s social investments around the globe. We know it takes all types. We need cooperation from the private sector, NGOs and the government to ensure we’re truly meeting the needs of our communities. Partnership is the fundamental reason why the PROMOT program has been successful in this first year.
KP: What role can/should international corporations play in improving health care at the BoP?
Chevron’s effort toward PMTCT in Nigeria is a case in point for how international corporations can be affected by challenges in their communities and have the capabilities and competencies to contribute to a solution. As I discussed earlier, the effect of AIDS on our workforce very quickly became more than a social issue. For us it’s a business issue, too.
For Chevron and many other international corporations, it’s not just AIDS, but the larger issues of development and economic livelihoods that are similarly social and business issues. While companies in our industry are drawn to countries like Nigeria for business purposes, success is deeply linked to local stability and vitality. As investors and business partners in these regions, we look for – and therefore must help to create – stable economic environments, happy and healthy employees and supply chain partners. By supporting these nations and their leaders in their aspirations for national stability and prosperity, we in turn enhance the opportunity for our success.
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