A CUT ABOVE THE REST:
HOW AN NPO, FOUNDED BY SOUTH AFRICA’S UNION MOVEMENT,
BECAME AN UNLIKELY CHAMPION FOR MEDICAL MALE CIRCUMCISION
On the occasion of the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) to be hosted in July in Durban, it is an opportune time to reflect on a little known champion of the fight against HIV, AIDS and TB – the SACTWU Worker Health Programme (SWHP).
South Africa’s organised labour movement mobilised relatively early on to attend to the scourge of HIV, AIDS as well as TB in the workplace. One such programme launched was the SACTWU Worker Health Programme. Founded in 1998, the programme 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. For the past 18 years, the SACTWU Worker Health Programme has been part of the very fabric of many people’s lives in South Africa, delivering much needed and, in fact, life-changing health services to over 1.2 million people directly, and many more indirectly.
Unions have a rich history of promoting the human rights, dignity and wellbeing of workers. In South Africa, they’ve played a leading role in the anti-apartheid liberation movement – a contribution which has 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 under-privileged communities are represented. These communities often tend to lack the best access to health, social services and information, with the result that the resource deficit is a major factor affecting the rate of spread and impact of these diseases.