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Call on business leadership to help address Caribbean challenges

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Dr. Basil Springer, head of Counterpart International’s Caribbean arm, called on corporations to play a lead role in addressing some of the region’s development challenges, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

His comments came as Counterpart embarked on its partnership with Coca-Cola and the ASHE Caribbean Performing Arts Ensemble to launch an HIV/AIDS awareness project in Jamaica.

“Coca Cola, through its philanthropy arm, has put the power of its brand, with all its positive connotations to so many young people, behind this project to generate awareness among young Jamaicans about the dangers of the virus and its transmission.”

Addressing the launch of the “Teens HIV/AIDS Prevention Project,” Dr. Springer thanked the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Company for not shying away from such a “controversial and uncommercial” topic as HIV.

Counterpart’s collaboration with Coca-Cola is an example of what Dr. Springer called “smart partnerships” with the private sector, a longstanding strategy of Counterpart, where civic minded corporations can work with organizations like NGOs to positively impact communities. “We trust that corporations, like Coca-Cola, want to be good citizens and we are eager to engage them and help them to help us in our work.”

The backing of Coca-Cola highlights the important role the private sector must take in tackling the AIDS epidemic, which Dr. Springer said poses a threat to human development. Despite a recent United Nations report citing the decline of HIV/AIDS cases in the Caribbean, AIDS still tops the list of causes of death for women aged 20-29 and is the second cause of death in children aged 1-4 in Jamaica.

The six-month project will include life skills education, youth-led training, a referral system and other services to properly equip Jamaican youth. It is poised to make significant headway in preventing the spread of disease in the Caribbean nation where risky sexual behavior and ignorance about disease transmission prevail.

Basil Springer Call on business leadership to help address Caribbean challenges
Dr. Basil Springer

“It is surprising just how ignorant many young people are about how HIV/AIDS is passed on,” Dr. Springer lamented. “Coca-Cola’s role is important for its economic clout as well as its pop culture status among young people. Young people may not pay much attention to traditional sermons and lectures,” Dr. Springer said, “but they are attracted and engaged by entertainment and lifestyle approaches.”

The Chairman hopes the power of the Coca-Cola brand and ASHE’s music, humor and art will breach the walls that cultural taboos in the Caribbean have built around the subjects of sex and HIV/AIDS.

The Coca-Cola Foundation and Company have been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa and have been at the forefront of the business sector in championing HIV/AIDS workplace policies, including the provision of anti-retroviral drugs. The Jamaica pilot project is the first such initiative being supported by Coca-Cola outside Africa.


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