Unions have a rich history of promoting the human rights, dignity and wellbeing of workers. In South Africa they played a leading role in the anti-apartheid liberation movement – a contribution which earned them a powerful voice in civil society. Unions have also assumed a key position in the fight against HIV, AIDS and TB, ensuring that the interests of workers from underprivileged communities are represented. These communities often lack sufficient access to health, social services and information – and this resource deficit is a major factor affecting the rate of spread and impact of these diseases.
Founded in 1998 the SACTWU Worker Health Programme (SWHP) initially focused on helping the Union to manage the effects of the disease on its membership. In 2003 SWHP registered as an NPO and broadened its reach, delivering services on a national basis to other communities affected by the HIV, AIDS and TB pandemics.