In the fight against HIV and AIDS, private-sector partnerships are a powerful tool

November 29, 2017

When Ebi found out she was HIV-positive, the news was almost too much to bear. Pregnant with her fifth child, she’d only taken the test because of Pact’s PROMOT II project, which had organized a community outreach and testing event in Kaiama, Nigeria, where Ebi lives with her children and husband, who is also married to three other women.

Upon learning her HIV status, Ebi at first refused to accept it. She was paired with a trained PROMOT II mentor, who persuaded her to take a follow-up test to confirm her result, and then enroll in antenatal care and begin antiretroviral therapy to try to prevent HIV transmission to her baby. Ebi also began “adherence counseling” to make sure she stayed on treatment.

When Ebi went into labor, she knew what to do: She went straight to a health center so her baby, a girl she named Davidela, could immediately be given the drug Nevirapine. Today, Ebi and Davidela remain on treatment, and Ebi and her team of caregivers are hopeful that Davidela will be HIV-negative when the result of her early-infant test soon comes back.

It was all made possible through a partnership between Pact and Chevron. With funding from Chevron, Pact has been working to stop mother-to-child HIV transmission in Nigeria’s Bayelsa state since 2012. PROMOT was originally planned to last through spring 2016. With PROMOT II, the partnership is continuing for two additional years.

While much of Pact’s work to stop the spread of HIV has been publicly funded, private-sector partnerships like the one with Chevron have played a critical part in Pact’s response to the epidemic – both in accelerating impact and in making sure interventions are successful.   

“I think for both Pact and for Chevron, we recognize that neither one of us can tackle this alone,” says Mark Viso, Pact’s President and CEO. “The world is facing so many pressing challenges, and HIV and AIDS remain among the biggest, despite the progress we’ve made. No single organization has the resources or expertise to end this epidemic. We have to work together, across sectors and organizations.”

Pact and Chevron have been partnering since 2003, when Chevron began supporting Pact health initiatives in Myanmar’s Dry Zone, in communities where the company operates. In addition to economic and other health interventions, the program focused on reducing rates of HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Together, Pact and Chevron reached more than 1.2 million people.

Before launching PROMOT, Pact and Chevron first joined forces to gather data on which to base their efforts, conducting a baseline assessment to understand communities’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to reproductive health, HIV and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the disease. Findings underscored that communities lacked basic, critical knowledge, and gave Pact and Chevron important insights into local cultural practices.

On that foundation, the partners developed a program that has seen remarkable results in a region where nearly one in 10 people are HIV-positive. As of October, more than 55,000 pregnant women have been tested for HIV through PROMOT and PROMOT II, and those who are positive are getting the care and services they need to keep themselves and their children healthy. The projects have also reached more than 392,000 people with vital HIV messaging; trained local health workers and mentors; and worked with community-based organizations to increase their capacity for prevention and treatment services, with a focus on building sustainable outreach programs that will carry on beyond the life of PROMOT.

Through their collaborative work, Pact and Chevron identified the need to also provide essential “wrap-around services” that counter the effects of poverty for those most vulnerable to HIV and AIDS. With PROMOT II, their work has expanded to include community and women-led savings-and-loan groups and financial education, in addition to health services.

“It’s precisely because some of Chevron’s largest operations are located where the grip of the disease is the strongest that we have long focused on comprehensive HIV prevention, testing and treatment,” says Dr. Huma Abbasi, General Manager for Global Health and Medical at Chevron. “But while Chevron has a lot to offer in this fight, we know we can’t do it alone. It’s imperative that we build strong partnerships between business, non-profits and governments to affect change. We’ve seen how collaboration can bring the right resources, expertise and scale to a multitude of challenges on the ground. Business has an important role to play, and has much to gain, too.”

Says Viso: “In Chevron, we’ve found a partner committed to investing in communities. They know that their success goes hand-in-hand with that of the communities where they work. This is truly about shared value.”

Most important, it is about saving lives.

“I’m telling my husband to check himself and our other four children” for HIV, Ebi says.

Another mother in her community, Ada Ojukwu, who is 28 and pregnant, also recently learned through PROMOT II that she is HIV-positive. Like Ebi, she is now on treatment, working with a trained PROMOT II mentor and receiving mother-to-child transmission prevention services.

“I must protect my baby from HIV,” she says. 

Lead photo: Ebi with three of her children.