International Health Group Drops Partnership With Heineken Over 'Beer Girls'

An international health organization has suspended its partnership with the Heineken beer company because of the controversial expend of so-called “beer girls” to promote its products.

The Global Fund launched a partnership in January with the Dutch brewer in its latest campaign to battle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. Heineken was to expend its communications and logistics expertise to attend shape effective messages, identify demand and provide quality control in shipments of medical supplies, according to a Heineken statement.

But the Global Fund announced on Thursday in a statement that it was suspending its partnership with Heineken “based on recent reports of the company’s expend of female beer promoters in ways that expose them to sexual exploitation and health risks,” National Public Radio reported.

“We catch these allegations very seriously and acquire challenged Heineken to examine their operations and beget changes to protect women from sexual exploitation and health risks,” said Global Fund executive director Peter Sands. “We are suspending the partnership until such time as Heineken can catch appropriate action to address these issues.”

The mostly young drink promoters are paid low wages — and work for tips, largely from groups of intoxicated men — to push certain beers in bars. Heineken has arrive under specific pressure to cease the practice in Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia. A 2011 study found that some Heineken beer girls in Cambodian bars moonlighted as sex workers for additional money and faced increased risks of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Reporter Olivier van Beemen revealed a similar situation in West African bars in an article in the Dutch publication NRC final week. That was apparently what Sands was referencing when he said “recent reports.”

Heineken could not immediately be reached for comment. The company, however, responded to van Beemen’s article, saying it took drink promoters’ risk of sexual exploitation very seriously. 

“The practices described plug totally against what we stand for as a company, and therefore we strongly condemn these malpractices,” said the Heineken statement. “The beer promoters are not employed by Heineken, but are sourced via external agencies … this makes it difficult to properly supervise the working conditions. However, we simply cannot allow them to continue to be confronted with unwanted intimacies and abuse or even with prostitution during their work.”

The company’s statement concluded: “We will catch further steps together with our local operating companies, promotional agencies and other relevant parties to deal with these malpractices and prevent them in the future.”

Critics had earlier condemned Global Fund’s partnership with Heineken, saying an organization concerned with health should not work with a company pushing alcohol, which can be detrimental to health.

It’s been a improper month for Heineken. Earlier this week, the company yanked a beer commercial that Chance the Rapper criticized as “terribly racist.” The Heineken Light ad showed a bartender sliding a bottle along a bar, past several black people, to a honest-skinned woman as the tagline, “Sometimes, lighter is better,” flashed on the screen.

“We missed the note, are taking the feedback to heart and will expend this to influence future campaigns,” a Heineken spokesperson told Newsweek.

The Global Fund is an international organization headquartered in Geneva that’s the largest funder of programs to battle AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation if seed money for the organization that began in 2002, according to Agence France Presse.

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