People happily chatting in the queue for testing.
Photo: Ylva Sahlstrand/Sida
Swedish companies invest in a sustainable HIV/AIDS programme
SWHAP, Swedish Workplace HIV AIDS Programme, was initiated in 2004 by the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) and the Industrial and Metal Workers’ Union of Sweden (IF Metall) The idea is all about developing company healthcare and reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS. Since its initiation in South Africa, the programme has spread to Swedish companies in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria. SWHAP and the companies will co-finance the programme for around three years. After this, the activities will continue on the company's own budget. The work includes providing free healthcare, medicine and family support. The concept is characterized by activities which focus on values, behaviour, stigma and discrimination.
Africa has been hit hard by HIV/AIDS, particularly in the southern parts of the continent. In 2007, UNAIDS estimated that around 33 million people around the world are living with HIV. Approximately 67 per cent of these live in Africa, south of the Sahara. Botswana has the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases – nearly 24 per cent of the region. South Africa is next with 18 per cent, then Zimbabwe and Zambia with around 15 per cent. As HIV/AIDS affects home and the workplace, as well as schools, a holistic approach is required. Through companies taking responsibility and working preventively, the course of the disease can be stopped in time, saving productivity and families.
The programme is being implemented by the companies themselves and the model builds upon the involvement of employees, union representatives, managers and, in some instances, even whole families.
Sweden has supported SWHAP from 2004 to 2008 with SEK 24 million. In 2009, SEK 48 million was contributed to cover the period up to 2012.
- SWHAP supports more than 90 workplaces in southern Africa.
- Approximately 20, 000 employees at companies with links to Sweden are reached by the health programme annually. Including families, an estimated 45, 000 people are affected.
- Thanks to timely initiatives for HIV cases, production has not been affected. This has in turn meant that the employees' pension fund, in the case of Atlas Copco, now charges lower premiums.
- The health programme draws a lot of interest. 80-90 per cent of the employees in South Africa go for tests.
- Alfa Laval in South Africa has been participating in the programme since 2005 with 38 of its employees. The company ranked highest, with 100 per cent participation in the tests each year. Since 2006, Alfa Laval in South Africa has had no new cases of HIV and no deaths.
- Once the co-financing period has ended, in many cases after three years, the programmes continue at the companies. Atlas Copco, Alfa Laval and Volvo in South Africa ended the financial cooperation with SHWAP in 2008, but all activities encompassed by the programme are still in full swing.
- Since the programme's initiation in 2004, many companies have become involved: ABB, Alfa Laval, Beckers, Assa Abloy, Autoliv, Atlas Copco, Ericsson, Hemocue, Metso, Saab, Sandvik, Sanitas, Scania, SKF, Swedish Match, Tetra Pak, Trelleborg, Tussilago Kitchen, AB Volvo.