The Trucking Wellness programme on Friday received ten new mobile clinics, used to combat the spread of HIV/Aids in the trucking industry, taking its fleet to 15 units.
The Sprinter-model clinics are used to provide primary healthcare, voluntary counseling and testing, screen for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to hand-out antiretroviral drugs.
The ten new clinics were handed over by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA), the South African Business Coalition on HIV/Aids (SABCOHA), and the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI).
The Trucking Wellness programme was conceptualised by the NBCRFLI in 1999.
Apart from the mobile clinics, dispatched largely to truck depots, the Trucking Wellness programme also operated 21 wellness centres, staffed by registered nurses and counsellors, situated along the country’s major transport routes.
While the rate of infection among South Africa’s estimated 70 000 truck drivers remained unknown, noted NBCRFLI chairperson Trevor Short, the health of truck drivers was vital as 80% of goods in South Africa were transported by road.
“To lose key personnel here would present a threat to the industry and to the national economy.
The lifestyle of a truck driver – travelling long distances alone – had led to the practise of drivers making use of sex workers who plied their trade along major trucking routes.
This had seen an alarming spread of both STDs and HIV/Aids among drivers.
MBSA Commercial Vehicles VP Kobus van Zyl added that the ability to drive a truck was rated as a scarce skill in South Africa.
MBSA, which joined the initiative in October last year, had provided Trucking Wellness with R3.58-million in funding, over a three-year period, to be administered by SABCOHA for the running and further expansion of the programme.
“Imagine the impact on our economy if the spread of this disease was left unchecked in the trucking industry. Truck drivers in their thousands transport goods between suppliers and consumers or secondary manufacturers daily,” said Van Zyl.
SABCOHA CEO Brad Mears said there were plans afoot to roll out the Trucking Wellness programme across Southern Africa, as HIV/Aids was often viewed by the country’s neighbours as a “huge snake with its head in South Africa”.
SABCOHA provided among others, project management and co-ordination services to the Trucking Wellness programme.
Short said the Trucking Wellness programme tested 2 330 employees in 2000, using two mobile clinics. With the ten new units, the target was to test 20 000 people a year.
“The Trucking Wellness programme is not glamorous, but it works,” he noted.