Public, private mix 'gives people their dignity'

XSTRATA Coal in Mpumalanga is making a difference in people's lives through a partnership with the government in the fight against HIV-Aids and TB.

XSTRATA Coal in Mpumalanga is making a difference in people's lives through a partnership with the government in the fight against HIV-Aids and TB.

The partnership, named Public Private Mix (PPM) was started in 2004 by Xstrata Coal, which has 11 operations across South Africa's coal belt.

Last week Xstrata Coal signed an official memorandum of understanding with Mpumalanga's MEC of health Dikeledi Mahlangu in Delmas.

Through the PPM, Xstrata improves infrastructure in community clinics, increasing their capacity to roll out ARVs.

Xstrata has spent R32million upgrading clinics and setting up the programme. Piet Henderson, general manager of risk at Xstrata, spoke to Sowetan about the programme.

"It's not about money, it's about making a difference, giving people back their dignity.

"In the beginning we did an analysis on how HIV/Aids would affect us as a business and discovered that it would have devastating effects if we don't do anything," Henderson said.

Using the workplace structure, Xstrata Coal started voluntary testing and counselling and 70percent of the staff came on board.

"But we realised that it was not enough for us to empower our workers and forget the communities where they live, hence we called government to join the programme," he said.

In the PPM there are the following partners:

l Xstrata, which provides the means to improve infrastructure;

l PEPFAR, a US fund for Aids relief that enables the training and placement of staff in clinics and hospitals to support the department of health, which includes doctors, nurses, pharmacists and counsellors;

l The local government's department of health identifies the needs of the community and provides medicine;

l Re-Action, a consultancy that is a technical implementation partner. It acts as the local PPM agency to implement technical and management activities;

l Civil society plays a role in the partnership that includes faith based organisations, traditional healers and volunteers.

Among the facilities that have benefited from PPM is Ubuhle Bempilo Clinic, Ermelo Wellness Clinic, Ermelo Hospital, NM Cindi Clinic, Witbank Hospital, Delmas Wellness Clinic, Siphosensimbi Community Health Clinic, Hlalanikahle Clinic in KwaGuga and Rietspruit Clinic.

"We have trained 100 wellness champions who go from door to door encouraging people to know their status and teach awareness of HIV and TB.

"Today 90percent of our staff know their status and 58percent of those who are HIV positive are on treatment," he said.

"Our aim is to have all our staff know their status and all those who have tested positive to be on treatment. All our operational sites will soon have a full-time wellness advocate."

Henderson said PPM had made a huge impact in the morale of Xstrata Coal staff.

"The stigma normally associated with the disease (Aids) has decreased significantly as more and more of our employees are coming out into the open about their status.

"This has led us to forming support groups among our staff," Henderson said.

He said that over 4000 people now have access to HIV treatment in clinics through PPM.

"We are not taking over the role of government. We are just partnering with government to make a difference," he said.

Henderson said new partners were coming to the fold, including the Powerbelt HIV/Aids Project, Anglo Operation Coal Division, BHP, Eskom, Harmony Gold and Sasol Coal.

lThis advertorial was produced by the Xstrata Group.