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04 December 2015

World Aids Day: ambitions health screening project in SA

Dr Motsoaledi says taking screening to the informal business sector in remote areas sees us going 'from talk to hope to seeing results'.

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This year, the World Aids Day slogan focused on us all working and acting together to ensure an HIV free generation.

The success of collaboration and the spirit of Ubuntu when tackling the HIV/Aids epidemic in South Africa, was demonstrated during a presentation to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi about the "most ambitious health screening project in South Africa". 

The value of co-contributions, both in cash and kind, provided comprehensive health screening to micro enterprise owners – survivalist businesses that normally are not able to access health screening due to their long working hours.

The project in brief

During Phase I, SABCOHA was tasked to carry out 44 000 tests focussing on medically uninsured employees in the workplace as well as the community where employee wellness was a large focus. EOH Workplace Health and Wellness pledged to help co-fund 14 000 of these tests but subsequently carried out over 22 000 which also included wellness screening.

Read: Workplace wellness in a time of HIV/Aids 

In Phase II and III SABCOHA was further tasked to carry out an additional 44 000 screenings in 18 months with the focus on micro enterprise. Susan Preller, SABCOHA’s COO says, “During this phase we focused on the environment and social development of micro enterprise by managing the health risk of entrepreneurs in this sector.

"This is core to the sustainability of any micro enterprise and the programme targeted mostly women as part of the key vulnerable population groups. It also linked to SABCOHA’s BizAIDS training, focussing on risk management for micro enterprises.” 

Visiting the screening site at eMbalenhle in the Gert Sibande District in Mpumulanga, Dr Motsoaledi said, “It is so exciting to be on the ground and see the project actually happening. We have gone from talk to hope and seeing results.  When you invest in the health of a country you are investing in the political and economic stability.

Read: Symptoms of HIV/Aids

“What makes the project unique is the fact that the screening takes place within the informal business sector and remote areas of the country – where people have never been tested. Mobile units are used to take the screening out to the community, ensuring a much larger take up than previously experienced. 

"The addition of wellness screening for lifestyle diseases was also a first. Lifestyle diseases are growing exponentially and taking a toll on our society, in terms of quality of life as well as the economic impact. When you consider that 70% of the women in South Africa are obese, the concomitant lifestyle diseases make this a shocking statistic.”

Preller says, “The success of this model is based upon co-funding from the private sector to strengthen efforts of donor funded programmes." According to the National Treasury Research on SMMEs (2008) South Africa has an estimated 2.8m small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) which contribute 52% – 57% of GDP.

SMMEs also provide about 60% of jobs and contribute more than 40% of the country’s total remuneration. This means that SMME’s in South Africa employ more people than corporate within the private sector and government combined.

Read: Planning for the future with HIV

According to Carl Manser, EOH Workplace Health and Wellness Executive – Business Growth and Sustainable Partnerships, “It has empowered small and micro business owners who are able to educate their workers, customers and family members on the prevention of HIV/Aids, negotiate safe sex practises and dispel myths and superstitions – a major deterrent in finding out their HIV status as well as other potential health risks and seeking treatment.

 It is important to understand that managing health risk is key to the success of any small and micro business. The project proves that taking healthcare into the communities – whether it’s by 4x4 or using nomadic tents – is possible.”

Where it all began

It all began in 2009 when the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) embarked a programme to ensure business participates in the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign (HCT) with the Global Fund as the International Funding agency.

The Global Fund provides funding for campaigns that fight HIV in needy countries, while promoting partnerships between governments, civil society, the private sector and affected communities by relaying country ownership and performance based funding for communicable diseases in needy countries.

Why government/private/public partnership is needed

According to a report by the South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey 2012, there is still a significant cause for concern and a serious call for intervention as knowledge levels have declined and there is increased risky sexual behaviour.

The research showed that people in informal areas continue to be most-at-risk of HIV, with the highest HIV incidence compared to those living in other areas. 

Read: Treating HIV

There is a continued high HIV prevalence and incidence in the Black African population, particularly among females aged 20–34 years and males aged 25–49 years.  For this reason a strong multi-sectoral approach is necessary if socio-economic challenges that continue to fuel the epidemic are to be addressed.

This project has resulted in SABCOHA, the private sector – represented by EOH – and other partners and the Global Fund creating a blueprint for others to follow.

The collaborative model demonstrates how government and the private sector can work together to fast-track screening to overcome not only HIV/Aids but other non-communicable diseases, which are increasing at an alarming rate in South Africa.

Phase III ends on World Aids Day but SABCOHA and EOH has committed to a further 5 000 screenings in the Vaal Triangle and a further 10 000 in the Free State in January of 2016.

Read more:

Early HIV treatment best 

SA's HIV treatment plan in disarray  

Manage HIV earlier rather than later 

 

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