In Zambia, the fight to combat AIDS has hit the streets. Nurse Janet Mvula leads the march. She runs a health service at a large commercial farm near Lusaka. Getting the message across about AIDS to York Farms’ 800 workers is a daily challenge for her.
Janet Mvula, Nurse, York Farms Ltd
Talking about HIV itself alone, it’s not an easy job. It’s a difficult one. First thing is that people are not even interested.
70 per cent of the workforce in Zambia is found in agriculture. The growth of large-scale commercial farms means awareness programs like this one reach people, especially women, previously unaware of how AIDS is transmitted. HIV affects nearly one out of five women of working age in this country.
Nigel Mumbi, Manager, York Farms Limited
We do worry in the sense that, yah, long term it will have an impact, it will reduce the workforce, it will reduce not only the workforce, but qualified labour.
Using props to get the message across, Janet is helped by a team of a hundred peer educators. These members of staff work alongside their colleagues to spread awareness about HIV. Their training is part of a prevention project run by the International Labour Organisation and supported by the Italian government.
Mpala Nkonkomalimba, ILO National project coordinator
It’s a very inexpensive way of educating people in a given workplace - by acting as role models; they have a very positive impact on behaviour change.
Other activities also target workers in their villages. A football match played by community elders draws a crowd and the curiosity of those wanting to know more about HIV. The players may not look old, but 38 years is the average life span in Zambia.
Ngosa Chisupa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Zambia
Due to awareness programmes and the introduction of ARVs, there is to a certain extent an improvement in that at least the life expectancy is now extended and at least there is more acceptance that really as a country we need to move and make decisions.
At York Farms Janet is already on the move making sure workers and the community have information about HIV and access to the best care she can provide.