PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa, 8 June, 2011 – Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has been recognised for its innovative Wellness Cluster programme by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC).

FMCSA President and CEO Jeff Nemeth accepted the GBC Business Action on Health Award at the beginning of June in New York, during the GBC’s annual conference. The two-day conference took place at Cipriani Wall Street, with the participation of celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Sigourney Weaver, business luminaries such as Ted Turner and Richard Branson, and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

“It is heartbreaking to see the devastating toll HIV/AIDS has taken on families in South Africa and around the world, especially when its spread can be prevented through education and awareness,” Nemeth said. “My hope is that this recognition will energise our efforts and encourage others to join the fight against this disease.”

The Wellness Cluster programme helps FMCSA’s family of supplier companies to provide in-house HIV/AIDS counselling and testing for automotive industry workers in South Africa. The programme was first launched in 2009 by the Ford Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth, in conjunction with the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and Aids Workplace Programmes in Southern Africa (AWiSA).

“Ford South Africa is like a family, and we look out for family,” said Nemeth. “Our family includes customers, suppliers and dealers, and on behalf of all the hard-working, dedicated men and women in our family, I am proud and humbled to represent an organisation that is truly committed to making the world a better place.”

The initiative has achieved phenomenal success. Ten automotive industry suppliers in South Africa have enrolled in the Wellness Cluster programme thus far. To date, more than 2,000 employees have volunteered to be tested for HIV, receiving potentially life-saving counselling in the process. The benefits to the workers and their families are immediate, with indirect benefits spreading throughout the community at large as awareness of how to combat and treat the disease continues to spread by word-of-mouth.

“The HIV/AIDS pandemic is not only tragic in terms of the toll it takes on people and their families,” said Kurt Bothman, Human Resources manager at the Ford Struandale Engine Plant. “It’s the single greatest threat to the viability and success of the automotive sector in the Eastern Cape. It’s essential that we tackle this issue with a strategic, carefully planned, well-executed and measurable programme that can turn the tide, and secure a prosperous future for our companies and the wider community.”

The 2011 GBC Awards include six categories: Ford took second place in the Partnership/Collective Action category. The organisation represents more than 200 private sector companies that aim to take the lead in the business community’s efforts to improve health conditions around the world. The GBC is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and this year’s award selection process was the most competitive yet.