Updated 16 May 2014

Putting the brakes on HIV

Truck drivers were the target of a recent health campaign that encourages regular HIV testing, among other health concerns.

A road safety and wellness campaign, by Adcock Ingram, Scania truck manufacturer, Swedish Workplace HIV/AIDS Programme (SWHAP) and Shell One Stop petrol stations focused on the health of truck drivers over December.

HIV, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure and BMI testing were top of the agenda at Shell Petrol Stations in Midrand, Bloemfontein, Middelburg, Polokwane and Harrismith.

Because of mobility, the trucking industry has been identified as a high-risk sector for HIV infection, according to Dr Eric Hefer, a member of the adult treatment guideline committee for the SA HIV Clinicians Society.

"We realise that truck drivers are a very vulnerable segment of the population and the knock-on effect is that if we treat and detect HIV-positive individuals, and put them on treatment, we also protect their sexual partners," he said.

"With this campaign, accurate data on the health of truck drivers can be obtained, allowing for confidential follow-up care and monitoring via cell phone communication and SMS. But perhaps most important, we will be able to help HIV-positive drivers access and initiate ARV (antiretroviral) treatment," said Luella Naidoo, head of Adcock Ingram’s ARV division.

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With a 96% efficacy rate, ARV treatment has been shown to be the most effective intervention against the spread of infection – better than condoms, circumcision and vaccinations.

"We therefore need to focus on assisting the industry so that access to HIV testing and ARV treatment become top priorities," said Dr Hefer.

Mr Steen Gram, after sales director of Scania South Africa says the foundational focus for road safety should begin with the driver because the driver can influence all of the factors concerning safety and the environment.

"South Africa faces particular challenges around viral and HIV-related infections. If a driver is in a fatigue situation, safety is compromised.

Read:Truck drivers pushed to the limit

"They are handling a highly sophisticated vehicle and in order for them to gain maximum output from this technology, the driver needs to be well trained, alert and in good health,” he said.

"In our experience with such campaigns, most truck drivers voluntarily sign up for the testing and screening and show keen interest in the initiative to promote wellness and road safety," said Gram.

The hugely successful campaign, which tested 660 truck drivers over the month of December alone, is set to take place again during April.

Read more:
Driver Wellness campaign
Truckers' maps show Aids clinics


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