Ahead of World AIDS Day, UNAIDS have released a report called “Get on the Fast Track – The life-cycle approach to HIV”. Using the dynamics of the human life cycle, the report details the importance of finding HIV prevention and treatment options “for everyone at every stage of life” (unaids.org).
One statistic highlighted by the report concerns the number of new infections amongst adults – the figure has remained virtually the same since 2010. The slow progress in reducing new infections in the 25-49 age group is attributed to lack of comprehensive HIV prevention efforts and inadequate strategies for removing structural barriers to testing and treatment.
A key challenge cited in the report is the failure of HIV programmes to engage men. Harmful gender norms are resulting in men having poorer health seeking behaviours compared to women. These gender norms put men at increased risk of HIV infection and decrease their likelihood of getting tested. Indeed, the report data shows a large gender gap in HIV status awareness with 59% of men compared to 72% of women testing and knowing their HIV results.
Workplaces in sub-Saharan Africa (where the majority of the workforce in formal employment is male) have an easily accessible population of men and a captive audience to promote HIV testing and prevention programmes. Amongst the SWHAP partners, workplace programmes do more than increase testing opportunities for men (and women), they also provide information and counselling on; general health, sexual reproductive health, couple communication, gender stereotypes that put the health of partners and children at risk, and gender based violence – showing its link to HIV transmission. Employee Support Programmes help to make treatment more accessible and support adherence to treatment regimens. This is not limited to HIV but includes other communicable and non-communicable diseases of concern to employees. Peer Education programmes empower men and women to be change agents in their communities advocating for testing and challenging risky masculinities. Over time these initiatives should translate to increased uptake of HIV testing and prevention services at workplace and community level and have a positive impact on the health of women and children.
More broadly, companies in the partnership are also involved in gender mainstreaming and diversity management to promote gender equality in the workplace. All these efforts are in collaboration with service providers, national AIDS councils and other organisations working in the HIV response.
This year SWHAP and its partners are joining UNAIDS and other actors in observing World AIDS Day through community outreach to vulnerable populations and provision of confidential HIV counselling and testing at workplaces for employees and their families.
To read the report follow the link Get on the Fast Track – The life-cycle approach to HIV