On the heels of the ICASA Africa AIDS Conference in Ethiopia, global health leaders once again issued a call to achieve an HIV/AIDS-free generation.Here in Angola, we know that dream is more than a possibility. In our own small way, we are already helping to build the first HIV/AIDS-free generation.
For seven years and counting, we have not had a single baby born with HIV to one of our employees or their dependants. Hundreds of babies have been born healthy, free of HIV, and ready to grow up to become Angola’s next generation of workers, leaders, mothers, and fathers.
We recognize the important role Chevron has in driving down the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Africa. In 2005, we became the first oil and gas company to institute a global HIV/AIDS policy for our employees. We have also focused on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission among our employees and their dependents.
In Angola, approximately 200,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS, with more than 65 percent of those cases occurring among women and children. The vast majority of these children acquire the disease from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
Chevron was able to drop new infections to zero among our employees and their babies by educating our employees, establishing a culture of voluntary, confidential testing and treatment, addressing stigma and discrimination in the workplace, and providing comprehensive medical care for expectant mothers.
We certainly didn’t do it alone. We partnered with Population Services International, a global non-profit organization that addresses serious global health issues like HIV/AIDS and threats to maternal and child health, to understand the stigmas our employees associated with HIV/AIDS, and to identify ways to improve education and clarify misconceptions. This information served as the foundation of our program.
We created print and digital materials outlining facts to demystify the misconceptions and to prepare mothers to have informed conversations with their doctors and other health care workers. We encouraged confidential, voluntary testing for employees, including all pregnant women, and emphasized that there are no negative repercussions for those getting tested and seeking treatment. We also proactively addressed destructive stigmas, like fears associated with replacing breastfeeding with formula-based bottle feeding because of the signals this sent to society.
For all women who tested positive for HIV, we provided an antiretroviral prophylaxis as treatment during the pregnancy and recommended a C-section, to minimize the baby’s exposure to the virus. We also provided formula for all HIV-positive mothers and home visits from nurses to ensure that all new mothers were properly educated in sterilizing bottles, preparing formula, and feeding their babies safely.
Why do we do all of this? In our minds, the relationship to our business could not be clearer. HIV/AIDS poses significant challenges to life expectancy, education and economic growth, and the essential vitality of families and communities. It poses a threat to community and national stability, and, by extension, to our business.
Chevron recently committed $20 million to a global action plan led by UNAIDS and PEPFAR seeking to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015. We’ve seen it work with our employees and their dependents in Angola and we’ve achieved similar results in Nigeria. We know it can work elsewhere.
These efforts, combined with the efforts that health organizations, NGOs and governments make each day on behalf of their patients, communities and constituents will help to round out the treatment and prevention of the disease in Africa. Together, through partnership, we can save even more lives, and watch the HIV-free generation grow up in front of our own eyes.
Dr. Ana Ruth earned her medical degree at the Agostinho Neto University in 1992 and held various
surgical posts within Luanda teaching hospitals, as well as several years at Johannesburg General
Hospital, and the world famous Chris Baragwana Hospital, also in Johannesburg.
Dr. Ana Ruth returned to Angola in 2002 and took up a position as surgeon and head of department at Multiperfil clinic Luanda.
In 2006 Dr. Ana Ruth attended specialty training in Brazil in the areas of Trauma, Pediatric Surgery,
amongt others, before returning to Angola in 2008.
Dr. Ana Ruth is married to Vanzeller Luís, and has three children.