Sixteen years ago, Nelson Mandela welcomed the world to Durban, South Africa for the country’s first International AIDS Conference. One million people in sub-Saharan Africa had died that year from AIDS-related diseases. Mandela called on humanity’s need to wage war against the oppression that for so many had ripped away the basic human right to health. But he pressed forward.

“We are a country and a continent driven by hope,” Mandela said. “Not despair and resignation to a cruel fate.”

This week, some 18,000 delegates representing organizations, businesses, and scientists from across the globe have gathered in Durban again for the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) with the same hope and urgency. Seventeen million people have received treatment for the virus in Africa, according to UNAIDS, but there are still more than double that figure living with HIV.

The year after Mandela’s speech, Coca-Cola joined the fight against AIDS in Africa and continues its support for HIV/AIDS programs there today. Recently, Coca-Cola’s support has evolved to include strengthening health systems across Africa through an initiative called Project Last Mile.

Launched in 2010, Project Last Mile is a collaboration among The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF), The Global Fund, USAID and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Through the program, government agencies learn about Coca-Cola’s business model to more efficiently deliver critical vaccines, medicines and medical supplies, including those directed at HIV/AIDS; market the availability of these supplies thus creating demand; and maintain coolers to ensure the medicines and vaccines are stored at the correct temperatures.

“Coca-Cola has made financial investments to alleviate HIV/AIDS-related challenges but also contributed logistical expertise, influence and reach to make a greater impact,” said Adrian Ristow, Project Director, Project Last Mile, The Coca-Cola Company. “That’s what this disease demands, greater opposition and attention.”

Global Support

Coca-Cola’s support of HIV/AIDS programs extends well beyond Africa. In 2008, we adopted a Global HIV/AIDS Policy, which is guided by international standards and outlines the Company's principles on confidentiality, non-discrimination, education, testing, treatment and reasonable accommodation.

Coca-Cola also has a long-standing partnership with (RED), a nonprofit organization started in 2006 by Bono of U2 and Bobby Shriver to pave the way for an AIDS FREE GENERATION. (RED)’s mission is to make it easy for people and businesses to join the fight against the deadly virus. In December 2011, The Coca-Cola Company announced a multi-year partnership with (RED) to raise awareness for the Global Fund to help eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2020.

Coca-Cola’s presence in Africa and in other countries and programs is indicative of the larger global response crucial in the process of ending the HIV/AIDS virus. As cases of HIV/AIDS have risen in some countries, Coca-Cola and others continue in Mandela’s “pressing need to wage war on all fronts.” Fifteen years later, Coca-Cola’s commitment has grown, but its vision has not changed. With the world it presses forward.

By the Numbers

2001: the year Coca-Cola joined UNAIDS in the fight against AIDS in Africa and created The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation.

172,000: the number of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) assisted through TCCAF’s $2.4 million grant to Hope Worldwide.

63: the number of health facilities in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to receive strengthened and expanded delivery of quality HIV/AIDS treatment services in South Africa through TCCAF’s $4.5 million grant and Africare partnership.

100,000: the estimated number of people who received free healthcare services at 207 sites across Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria on Rotary Family Health Day 2012, an event initiated by Rotarians for Fighting Aids, Inc. and supported by TCCAF and other partners including USAID.

18,570: the number of hard-to-reach citizens who received HIV tests on Rotary Family Health Day 2012, with 670 testing positive, and enlisted in antiretroviral (ARV) programs.