World AIDS Day 2013

Since 2005, AIDS related deaths have decreased by 30% and 9.7million people in low and middle income countries are now accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) representing a 20% increase since 2011 (UNAIDS). However, with the number of new infections for 2012 at 2.3 million and 50% of all people living with HIV unaware of their status, much remains to be done in terms of scaling up access to testing and treatment as well as reaching vulnerable populations.

Atlas Copco WAD 160 (800x571)World AIDS Day, commemorated on 1st December, is an opportunity to celebrate progress being made in addressing HIV and AIDS whilst raising awareness and encouraging progress in prevention, treatment and care.  SWHAP partners will be joining UNAIDS and other actors in observing this day through commemorative marches and community outreach to vulnerable populations such as prisoners and orphans. Confidential voluntary counselling and testing will also be available at workplaces for employees and their families, providing opportunities for testing and referrals for treatment where necessary.

Workplace Wellness and HIV & AIDS programmes are an effective and important aspect of the global response to HIV and AIDS. Participation in initiatives such as the ILO’s “Getting to Zero at Work” and “VCT @ Work” promote access to testing, counselling and treatment for workers and their families contributing to Zero new HIV infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths.

VCT at Scanlink in Zimbabwe

VCT at Scanlink in Zimbabwe

Gender Based Violence

ribbon-whiteGender based violence has been identified as one of the significant drivers of HIV infection, consequently the elimination of violence against women is important in addressing the HIV pandemic. Women who fear or experience violence lack the power to ask their partners to use condoms or to refuse unprotected sex, and fear of violence can prevent women from learning and/or sharing their HIV status and accessing treatment. Women who face intimate partner violence are at a 50% increased risk of acquiring HIV (UNAIDS).

SWHAP-supported workplaces in partnership with service providers work to address underlying social and cultural conditions that put women at risk. Workshops bringing men and women together to discuss gender based violence, rape and sexual harassment are conducted regularly in the workplaces. Additionally, education through industrial theatre and role play encourages open communication about harmful gender norms and stereotypes which promote unequal power relations. Women are empowered with information on how to respond to different types of violence and how to identify sources of help. Discussion forums for male employees promote the adoption of safer and responsible sexual practices, actively engaging men in efforts to address gender based violence.

Other strategies which address women’s risk to HIV include Women’s Wellness Days which provide opportunities for testing in supportive environments and Spouse Peer Educator network meetings, offering life skills training on HIV risk and prevention. Additionally spousal clubs in Zambia have provided seed capital for income generating projects for the Spouse Peer Educators who are predominately female, improving their access to economic activities, an important determinant in addressing the disproportionate risk faced by women in regards to HIV.

At national levels, SWHAP is, for example, represented on the Zimbabwe National Technical Working Group on Gender and HIV/AIDS, working to ensure the inclusion of women in governance and socio-economic participation.

Condom distribution at Sodeico Women's Wellness Day in the DRC

Condom distribution at Sodeico Women’s Wellness Day in the DRC

The 25th of November marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. To participate in the “Orange the World in 16 Days”, an initiative highlighting efforts to prevent and end violence against women, follow this link.

Addressing Diabetes in the Workplace – World Diabetes Day 14th November

Diabetes is a big problem, creating an economic burden on society due to the costs of treatment and decrease in productivity as a result of absenteeism or disability. Worldwide 370 million people are living with the disease and another 280 million are at risk. The World Health Organisation and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimate that the diabetes population in Africa will double over the next 25 years. The main cause for this sharp increase is being attributed to increased urbanisation with sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected region. Urbanisation is associated with, the adoption of diets high in fat, sugar and salt as well as decreased regular physical activity and obesity. The complications of Type 2 Diabetes which include heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputations, and kidney failure are expensive to treat but can largely be avoided through early detection, treatment adherence and lifestyle changes.

Screening for diabetes, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and HIV during a Wellness Day at Atlas Copco South Africa

Screening for diabetes, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) and HIV during a Wellness Day at Atlas Copco South Africa

Education and prevention are thus key in addressing diabetes. At SWHAP supported workplaces in sub-Saharan Africa, information on the causes, prevention and treatment of diabetes is shared during awareness sessions and Workplace Wellness Days provide opportunities for screening for employees and their families. This is important in a region where more than 80% of people do not know they have the disease (IDF). Companies working in partnership with service providers also provide follow up services for those employees at risk of developing diabetes to encourage positive lifestyle changes. These services are complementary to initiatives already in the workplace such as healthy meals options in canteens and programmes such as “The Biggest Loser” at Atlas Copco South Africa and Zimbabwe which encourage employees to lose weight through healthier diets and regular exercise.

Addressing the modifiable risk factors of diabetes is also of benefit to employees affected by other communicable and non- communicable diseases including HIV as preventative steps in relation to nutrition and lifestyle changes can assist in keeping the immune system healthy.

United Nations Day

The 24th October is the anniversary of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), when the UN officially came into being. It is an important day for highlighting the aims and achievements of the UN and mobilising support for the important work the organisation carries out. The Swedish Workplace HIV and AIDS Programme (SWHAP) works in close cooperation with certain UN agencies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in contributing to the response to HIV and AIDS through workplace programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. SWHAP provides support for HIV workplace programmes in over 200 workplaces in ten countries. Working in partnership with 106 companies and respective unions, workplace programmes are reaching out to employees, their families and vulnerable populations in the community. In doing so SWHAP strives to contribute to the achievement of the international development goals set by the UN, in particular Millennium Development Goal 6, “Combating HIV and AIDS, Malaria and other diseases”.

John Viner_ENGLISH JPEG

SWHAP is also part of the ILO’s Inter-Agency Task Team on HIV/AIDS in the World of Work, and supports campaigns such as, “Getting to Zero at Work” and “VCT@Work”, an initiative to reach 5 million workers with voluntary HIV counselling and testing by 2015. As well as providing opportunities for testing, the initiative aims to ensure that those testing positive are referred to appropriate treatment, care and support services. SWHAP is recognised as one of the few programmes aligned to this approach and which incorporates the implementation of the ILO’s Recommendation 200 in its model for workplace HIV and AIDS programmes. This Recommendation is the first international labour standard on HIV and AIDS in the world of work.

Recently SWHAP partnered with the ILO in Zimbabwe to support the development of a specific HIV and AIDS policy for the engineering sector, working with the sector representatives of the employers, the National Engineering Workers Union (NEWU) and the National Employment Council. The policy will ensure safe and healthy working environments free of stigma and discrimination on the basis of HIV status.

ILO Country Office Director, Alphonse Tabi-Abodo, addressing participants at the conference

ILO Country Office Director, Alphonse Tabi-Abodo, addressing participants at the conference

Atlas Copco Zambia Community Outreach

Atlas Copco Child Health Week 2013Twice a year the Zambian government in collaboration with donors, development agents, and corporate business entities conduct nation-wide immunisation and health checks for all children aged between 0-6 years.

Over the years Atlas Copco Zambia has been an integral partner in the roll-out of the week-long child health promotions in Chingola. The company provides logistical and material support to the District Health Management Office, making it possible for residents in the densely populated peripheral areas to receive services.

This year in line with its corporate social responsibility Atlas Copco Zambia directed their support in promoting access to services in the un-serviced areas of Chawama and Chiwempala compounds of Chingola, as a way of contributing to the health and well- being of the Chingola residents. The company provided fuel for sensitisation, lunches to health personnel and incentives to the first hundred infants to be screened at the local health centre. These measures resulted in the townships targeted recording among the highest turnout of families queuing to have their children screened and vaccinated.

Atlas Copco management were greatly encouraged by the success of the exercise and hope to scale up their partnership with the government particularly service provision in the areas of health, education and sanitation.

Many workplace programmes amongst the SWHAP partners have evolved over the years to incorporate wellness into HIV and AIDS programmes. The good work at Atlas Copco Zambia is one example, of SWHAP partners addressing issues of wellness as well as HIV and AIDS in their community outreach efforts.

EcoEnergy, Public Private Partnerships

SWHAP partner EcoEnergy is in the process of developing a modern sugar estate on an abandoned cattle ranch in Bagamoyo District, Tanzania, working in partnership with the Government of Tanzania and the local community.  While the project is expected to become a role model for sustainable environmental and social development creating jobs and offering other wealth creation opportunities, there are social risks that need to be managed. Early into the project EcoEnergy identified that a potential impact of the project would be increased risk of communicable diseases including HIV and TB due to a rise in the population of workers and an influx of opportunity seekers resulting in increased social interaction in the community. EcoEnergy has chosen a collaborative approach, seeking partners within the community to address the potential risk. In May, as part of the project preparation, a meeting was organised targeting Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) active in Bagamoyo, to share information and ideas on how this risk can be managed. The meeting was a great success with around 40 NGOs participating.

Sharing information with, and involving communities in, the decision making process increases the probabilities of project acceptance and success. To read more on how EcoEnergy is partnering with the local community to address HIV and AIDS please follow the link: EcoEnergy Case Study.

Scania Botswana at the Kalahari Mountain Bike Challenge

Four members of staff from Scania Botswana participated in the grueling 185 kilometre Kalahari Mountain Bike Challenge held on the 20th and 21st of July, to raise the visibility of their workplace Wellness and HIV & AIDS Programme.  Scania provided financial support for the race participants as part of its efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles amongst its workforce. Regular moderate exercise is beneficial for health as it reduces cholesterol, the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes and some kinds of cancers as well as improving mental health and mood. Importantly for HIV positive individuals, exercise is good for the immune system and has also been found to reduce total body and trunk fat among men with lipodystrophy, a condition causing the redistribution of body fat.

Scania Botswana at Kalahari Challenge

Scania Botswana at Kalahari Challenge

Taking care of the supply chain

During the last week of June Scania Botswana trained six drivers from its supply chain. As part of the driver training programme the trainees from Petro Logistics and Choppies also received education on wellness and HIV & AIDS. At the end of the training Scania Driver Trainer, Otto Bojang, distributed Driver Buddy Packs to the participants. The Driver Buddy Pack provide practical information on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV prevention, a treatment “Road Map” booklet containing addresses of healthcare centres where drivers can access HIV prevention services, a CD with music relating to HIV prevention as well as male and female condoms. Drivers are considered a high risk group as the nature of their jobs means a lot of time is spent away from partners and families, making them prone to engaging in multiple concurrent partnerships and risky sexual behaviour.

Scania Botswana Supply Chain Driver Training

Atlas Copco Botswana – Wellness Days

Atlas Copco Gaborone Wellness Day July Congratulations to Atlas Copco Botswana who held wellness days across three sites in June and July. Employees in Gaborone, Francis Town and Selebi Phikwe had the opportunity to participate in Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT), as well as screening for diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI). As the majority of employees work in the mines they also had their eyes and ears checked. The main aim of the wellness days was to encourage health seeking behaviours amongst the employees and to raise awareness of health related conditions that may potentially develop into chronic ailments if left unaddressed. As a result of the tests conducted, Atlas Copco now has an accurate health risk profile and can begin to implement the appropriate interventions for its workforce. Well-designed wellness programmes can keep healthy employees healthy, support employees with health risks to improve their health behaviours and facilitate organisational efforts to achieve work performance goals.