Mining communities, where many SWHAP partners operate, are particularly vulnerable to HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This is due in part to the closed nature of the communities which promotes sexual networks (a key driver of HIV particularly in Southern Africa) and to high risk sexual practices in those communities. Companies in the SWHAP network often partner with the public and private sector to address this risk. The different projects and interventions aim to reduce behavioural risk factors, and strengthen the prevention of HIV and STIs through increasing awareness and access to treatment.
On 9 August, a partnership between, Sandvik Mining and Construction Zimbabwe, Zimplats, the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), the International Labour Organization, the National AIDS Council and SWHAP resulted in a community dialogue on STIs in the mining town of Ngezi. This was following reports of a spike in the numbers of STIs being recorded at the mine clinic. The objective of the dialogue was to encourage the residents of the town to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive health.
Popular talk show host Mai Chisamba facilitated the discussions, which looked at the drivers of STIs and the link with HIV. Over 800 residents of the town, including mine employees, participated in the dialogue which encouraged them to examine behavioural practices that were fuelling the rise in STIs (for example, infidelity, multiple concurrent partnerships, risky sexual behaviours, lack of condom use, alcohol and drug abuse). At the end of the discussions representatives from the community signed a pledge committing to; marital fidelity, regular HIV and wellness screening, open communication between married couples and saying no to drug and alcohol abuse.
The lively event attracted considerable attention on social media with over 3 000 people viewing the video highlights on Facebook.
The programme at Ngezi is an acknowledgment that comprehensive HIV and AIDS responses must include the communities where employees reside. This is where most exposure takes place and reaching out to communities is important in reducing the risk faced by employees and their families. Sandvik and Atlas Copco have employees who work at this mine.
In conjunction with the dialogue, participants also had the opportunity for HIV screening and medical male circumcision. Employees were encouraged to attend the dialogue and screening with their spouses.
Renegade on the left: “This is a good thing. I was circumcised last time and now I have brought two of my friends for circumcision today. It will help them stay clean and healthy.”