Volvo Construction Equipment’s dealer in South Africa has been praised for its innovative thinking and commitment to employees after winning a prestigious award for helping launch an HIV/AIDS testing and education program in the workplace.
Babcock, Volvo Construction Equipment’s South African dealer, topped the category for best progress in the 2010 Achievement Awards of the Swedish Workplace HIV and AIDS Program (SWHAP), an organization helping companies with Swedish connections to prevent the spread of HIV and reduce the effects of the pandemic.
“If it wasn’t for Volvo Construction Equipment, none of this good work would have happened,” says Dianne Borello, Babcock’s health and safety trainer and the driving force behind the Babcock Wellness Program. “They were why SWHAP approached us and offered to subsidize the project in August 2009.”
Having taken a university course in HIV/AIDS Cure & Counseling, Dianne was the obvious person to run the program. Understanding that within South African society there is a great reluctance to talk openly about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, Dianne knew Babcock had to look at alternative ways of encouraging employees to discuss the issues and – more crucially – to take an HIV/AIDS test.
The answer was to bring in a theater production company to dramatize the HIV/AIDS issues in a series of live performances played to the 420 employees of Babcock’s two divisions with Volvo connections (Construction Equipment and Penta) at every one of its outlets across the country – even the most remote sites with just three or four staff.
The show features two characters with HIV/AIDS. The first gets his medication, returns to work, gets promoted and leads a happy, ordinary life. The other character gets sicker and sicker, and by the time he finally goes for a test, it’s too late.
“It’s a simple but very powerful message,” Dianne says. “The production had an electrifying impact on the audiences.
After the performance, the employees were invited to take a free mouth-swab test at the mobile clinic that was brought in for the day. Counselors were on hand to deliver results within 15 minutes and immediately begin a support program for those who tested positive.