Message from the Managing Director:
"Palabora Mining Company is committed to reducing the impact of HIV/Aids on our employees, contractor employees and the community of Ba-Phalaborwa. HIV/AIDS has impacted Palabora as much as it has the rest of the country. The effects, though difficult to quantify due to the confidentiality and stigma that still surrounds the disease, include absenteeism, reduced productivity, loss of personnel and increased direct and indirect costs. While we do realise that there are no quick fixes for the pandemic, Palabora believes that a sustained education and awareness campaign will eventually pave the way towards preventing the spread of more infections."
Creating awarenessPalabora has instituted an HIV/Aids steering committee, and appointed a full time HIV and Health educator in addition to a trained group of Peer Educators. A targeted HIV/Aids community awareness programme is also in place. Together, these initiatives help to ensure that the correct information regarding the disease is distributed to the largest possible audience. Furthermore the company has free voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) services for employees and contractors, and all employees together with their families have access to HIV treatment via company subsidized medical aid schemes.
Ongoing initiativesThe HIV/Aids Steering Committee consists of members of Palabora's management, the human resources department, the medical department, the Palabora Foundation and the two major unions represented at Palabora. The committee coordinates HIV management plans and reviews progress on a regular basis. The following programmes have been initiated by the Steering Committee:
Education and awareness
The purpose of Palabora's HIV/Aids management activities is to educate employees and raise ongoing awareness of the disease and its impacts. We strive to provide every employee with access to the correct HIV information so that they may protect themselves and have accurate knowledge to deal sensibly with the disease in their community. Voluntary counselling and testing is continuously advocated and available - both to help affected employees understand their HIV status and to offer emotional and psychological support.
The role of a full-time HIV and Health educator was initiated in 2003. His/her main function is to act as an awareness coach, increasing awareness by talking and lecturing at safety gatherings and other meetings. Personal discussions are treated with the utmost sensitivity and confidentiality.
All company training incorporates an HIV awareness module. In addition to creating awareness, this helps to further normalise and encourage discussion around the disease.
HIV slogans are displayed at the mine entrance and also on bill-boards and posters around the company. These are changed monthly to keep information current; and employees are encouraged to submit additional slogans.
The Company further supports national initiatives such as the HIV Candle Lighting Day and national AIDS day. Further, through Medical Aid Schemes all employees have access to confidential HIV treatment and management programmes.
Peer Group Educators (PGE)
Peer Group Educators are voluntary fellow workers who have received training to advise and assist employees in matters relating to HIV/Aids. Palabora has already trained 30+ Peer Group Educators from different sections of the mine.
The PGE slogan is: "A fellow-worker teaching a fellow-worker". All PGE activities are focused on changing behaviours among their peers to stop the spread of HIV/Aids. With this in mind, they support their peers in the following ways:
Personal (one-on-one) activities:
Affected employees - whether infected themselves, or having to cope with an infected family member - do not always feel free to ask questions in group situations. To address this, Peer Group Educators are available to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the disease in one-on-one discussions. They provide emotional support and discuss how the disease can be contracted, spread and, importantly, how to treat and prevent it.
Through group activities, HIV/Aids information is presented visually through various media - including on-screen. Health information materials, such as pamphlets and booklets, are freely distributed. Posters and other relevant information are displayed on notice boards and condoms are made freely available at strategic locations.
Offsite awareness programme
An offsite HIV/Aids programme helps to create awareness of the effects of the disease and to provide support within the community. The company assists with community-based educational programmes to highlight the importance of social behavioural change.