South African Government, Business Groups Launch HIV Prevention, Treatment Strategy Aimed at Trucking Industry
A coordinating committee of government and trucking industry leaders on Monday launched a program in South Africa aimed at reducing by 20% the number of new HIV/AIDS cases among long-distance truck drivers by October 2004, SAPA/AllAfrica.com reports (SAPA/AllAfrica.com, 8/18). Officials said that the South African trucking industry -- a "cornerstone" of the South African economy -- could be destroyed by HIV/AIDS. HIV prevalence among truck drivers is much higher than HIV prevalence among the South African population at large, according to Nthari Matsau, deputy director general of the Health Department (Dow Jones International News, 8/18). Although the exact HIV prevalence among the industry's 55,000 drivers is unknown, a 2001 study by the South African Medical Research Council found that 56% of long-distance truck drivers in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands were HIV-positive. At one truck stop in Newcastle, 95% of those tested were found to be HIV-positive. The new strategy seeks to implement awareness education and voluntary testing, treatment and counseling programs targeted at the country's long-distance truck drivers. Louis Hollander, chair of the coordinating committee, said that a donor company is needed to fund the project. Hollander said that a voluntary testing program for an unnamed company started last month and that there has been "overwhelming response." The program -- a joint venture by the government and trucking industry -- comprises seven clinics with training centers along national routes where people can get treatment and information about the spread of the disease. However, Hollander said that roadside clinics are not optimal HIV testing venues, adding, "You can't give a person bad news and then he gets in his vehicle and drives off" (SAPA/AllAfrica.com, 8/18).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.