The Global Fund against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will receive SEK 2,5 billion from the Swedish development assistance budget over three years. The fund has now signed a cooperation agreement with the brewery giant Heineken - despite the fact that alcohol consumption has a clear connection to both HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis. Isabella Lövin and the Swedish government must act to stop the cooperation.
Infectious diseases such as HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis are behind a large part of the disease burden in low- and middle-income countries. Of course, the diseases affect the people who fall ill immediately, but in the long run, families, communities and entire nations are also hard hit. In Agenda 2030, the countries of the world have undertaken to eradicate AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030. This is an ambitious goal that will require major efforts from, among others, the Global Fund. The Global Fund does an enormously important job in preventing infectious diseases and in supporting the building of health systems for those who have become infected.
Doing this work in collaboration with the alcohol industry is remarkable. The evidence is clear: Alcohol consumption is clearly linked to both HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis, both in terms of spread and in terms of treatment results.
Alcohol increases the risks
Alcohol consumption is a clear risk factor for both HIV / AIDS and tuberculosis. A larger one meta-study points out that alcohol contributes to an increased risk of unprotected sex and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Other studies, among others one published in the journal Alcoholism shows that treatment results can deteriorate significantly if the patient gets drunk regularly. In connection with binge drinking, almost 15 percent of the patients studied missed at least one dose of their medication. In the case of tuberculosis was published as late as the end of last year a research overview in The Lancet which shows that about 10 percent of all deaths from tuberculosis are alcohol-related.
Partnership in itself is good. Closer collaboration with the business community can in many cases be necessary for better public health and faster development in the world. But collaborating with an industry that has clear commercial special interests that so clearly affects both health and development in the world is the wrong way to go.
Heineken is the world's second largest beer producer. An increasing share of the company's profits come from low- and middle-income countries, areas where large resources have been invested in marketing and political influence over the past decade. Studies also show that up to half of the alcohol industry's revenue comes from people who have a harmful drink.
Heineken opposes WHO action
The measures that the WHO advocates as the most cost-effective for preventing problems from alcohol are high prices, limited availability and bans or tough regulations for alcohol advertising. These are measures that Heineken and the rest of the alcohol industry consistently oppose. Lobbyists are trying to persuade governments to choose other, much less effective, interventions.
This type of collaboration with the Global Fund is extremely valuable to Heineken. It helps them to appear responsible and gives them legitimacy and credibility as partners to governments and other actors they want to have influence over. The industry's various efforts to "do good" must be seen as part of an advocacy and public relations work. Such an important player as the Global Fund should not participate in.
Sweden has promised to contribute SEK 2,5 billion to the Global Fund for three years and is thus one of the largest donors. This entails both influence and responsibility - Isabella Lövin and the Swedish government must act forcefully to end the cooperation between the fund and Heineken. It is a question of credibility, of people's lives and well-being and of making Agenda 2030 a reality.
Mona Örjes, ochair of the IOGT-NTO movement
Alexander Gabelic, oPresident of the Swedish United Nations
Anders Malmstigen, bSecretary General of the Swedish Mission Council