For years research has pointed to the fact that truck drivers and others transport workers remain disproportionately vulnerable to HIV infection.
This is largely due to transient and often solitary nature of their work, according to the 2008 UNAIDS Annual Report.
The Report, “Towards Universal Access”, highlighted that in 2008, the World Food Programme (WFP) embarked on an innovative initiative designed to ensure that transport personnel are made aware of the risk and the vulnerabilities of life on the road.
In 2006, WFP teamed up with the distribution company TNP to launch the North Foundation at the Clinton Global Initiative. The aim was to promote the notion of ‘responsible transport’ by providing workers with basic health care and the information and services necessary to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
“What began as a pilot project, a drop-in wellness centre for transport workers at the Mwanza border crossing in Malawi, is today a vibrant alliance that involves the global health community, national governments and the business sector,” the report said.
The wellness centers, which are housed in refitted shipping containers, offer services free of charge. All are open during the hours most convenient for truckers, usually in the evening when they park for the night.
In 2008, the four million strong International Transport Workers’ Federation officially joined with the WFP, TNT and UNAIDS to create a network of health access points along the major transport corridors in Africa.
With support from strategic partners, including the British and Dutch governments, Chevron and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group, North Star opened four new wellness centers, in addition to the two that already existed.
On average, health care staff in the centers see35visitors a day. Most request HIV prevention information, condoms, counseling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other illnesses.
Today, new wellness centres are operating in Namibia, South Africa and Zambia, as well as the original site in Malawi and Swaziland. The UK Department for International Development provided funds to WFP Kenya and UNAIDS to establish three more centres along the Mombassa-Kampala corridor.
The North Star has also received funds from Family Health International/USAID to establish more than 20 centers in eight East African countries over the next three years. The Report projected that by 2013, 85 percent of the corridors in east and southern Africa will offer HIV prevention service to mobile transport workers and sex workers.
A state-of-the-art technology designed to link the wellness centres together and enable real time access to data and enhanced monitoring began rolling out late in 2008.
In the future, visitors will be issued with a smartcard ‘health passport’ that contains personalized information that will enable speedy access to treatment anywhere within the system, the report concludes. Source: The Voice