In Kenya, the transport sector accounts for more than 30% of GDP. Long distance truck drivers and their assistants (loaders) are an integral part of the sector with their health affecting its profitability. Addressing HIV within this key population is a challenge with interventions looking at issues on transactional sex, multiple sex partners, and creation of opportunities for accessing services. Indeed, research has shown that in East Africa HIV prevalence for truckers is between 25% and 32%, which is in many cases more than double the national averages (kmcc.org.ug).
After noting structural barriers in this industry (lack of HIV policies, and conditions of service) that were making drivers more vulnerable to exposure to HIV, sexually transmitted infections and other conditions, SWHAP partnered with the Federation of Kenya Employers, the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers Union and the International Labour Organization. The partnerships sought to engage the companies that employed the drivers to create support for HIV interventions at workplace level and contribute to a more sustainable response.
During two phases conducted in 2016 and 2017, 20 companies in the transport and allied sectors in Kenya were mentored to set up and implement workplace HIV and AIDS Programmes. This process included; management sensitisation for buy-in and support; selection and training of programme steering committees and peer educators; baseline knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and practices surveys; HIV and non-communicable disease awareness raising and testing for employees; and the development and dissemination of HIV policies promoting non-discrimination which upheld the rights of positive employees.
More than 75% of employees from the companies received information that helped them make more informed decisions about their health and provided tips on behaviour change strategies to mitigate against ill health. As a result of these health education sessions, 1 392 employees participated in HIV testing. All HIV positive employees were linked to care and treatment services.
Testing conducted during the second phase of the programme also involved truck drivers from other companies not involved in the programme as well as sex workers. In total an additional 4 186 truck drivers and sex workers were equipped with knowledge on HIV and AIDS, 3 888 got to know their HIV status and 83 557 condoms were distributed.
The companies involved in the programme were committed to the process, and progress was steady despite the political instability that prevailed especially during the implementation of the second phase. This project showed the possibilities for rapid scale-up of workplace programmes in the transport sector.
In Tanzania, management sensitisation was held for eight companies participating in the second mentorship programme involving the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) and the Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA). The objective of the meeting was to promote understanding on HIV interventions at the workplace and to discuss the legal framework governing health and HIV. As a result of the sensitisation process, all eight companies agreed on further training for management in order to enhance understanding on the business case for investing in employee health. They have also agreed to establish steering committees which will advocate for HIV and wellness testing at the workplaces.
Wellness committee training was held for companies under the National Union of Building, Engineering and General Workers Union (NUBEGW) mentorship programme on 15 November. Training built capacity in the design and implementation of workplace programmes. This was followed by training for programme focal persons on 6 December. NUBEGW is an affiliate of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and represents building, engineering and general workers. It has a membership of 15 463 including Atlas Copco and Sandvik employees.