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SUB CATEGORIES General  |  HIV |  Medical Schemes | 

World AIDS Day: Community involvement and education the key to prevention

01 December 2011 Sanlam

Interactive community involvement, with particular emphasis on parents and young people, is vital to foster the prevention mindset that is critical in the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS in South Africa. This is the view of Ms Lulu Letlape, executive head of Group Corporate Affairs at Sanlam.

“Awareness and education are two of the most important weapons in the fight against the pandemic. As is ongoing partnership between government, NGOs, the private sector and communities – especially parents and schools – to ensure that the HIV/AIDS prevention message continues to be heard across the country.”

She says that it is also important that the messaging in communities incorporates a real understanding of how HIV/AIDS is contracted and offer a comprehensive approach to how it can be avoided.”

To this end, Sanlam this year became one of the leading South African partners in the HIV&Me initiative. Coordinated by the Regency Foundation, an international development agency that facilitates partnerships between the United Nations and the business sector, HIV&Me specifically targets school learners in the 12 to 15 age group. The programme enables the learners to make responsible and informed choices about their health and their sexual behaviour. Around 280 schools are currently included in this programme.

Sanlam’s support for HIV&Me – which forms a part of the Sanlam Foundation’s corporate social investment programme – is aimed at taking the prevention message to schools.

Letlape says Sanlam was particularly excited by the innovative approach of the Regency Foundation programme. “It brings together knowledge and education about HIV&AIDS at curriculum level and seeks sustainability through the involvement of families and communities as well as monitoring. It really stood out for us as an organisation which had the same philosophy as us in how to address this crisis.”

Letlape stresses that Sanlam takes its role as a South African corporate citizen very seriously. “Risk management is at the very core of who we are and what we do as an organisation so we are committed to helping communities understand and prevent the risks associated with HIV/AIDS infection. Solutions for the disease are extremely important, but we believe that education about the disease itself is vital. We truly believe in helping young people to avoid contracting it in the first place.”

Internally, Sanlam’s employees benefit from access to a number of initiatives focussed on HIV/AIDS. These include integrated health risk testing, HIV training upon orientation, a policy that guards against discrimination and a resource centre. Support groups, poetry competitions and staff involvement campaigns are among the awareness campaigns run by the organisation.

Letlape concludes that World AIDS Day is one of the most successful awareness days on the global calendar. “Once a year the spotlight is placed firmly on this devastating disease and we are grateful as it keeps it top of mind. With the right partnerships and engagements, all sectors of society can come together to accelerate community involvement and education to ultimately stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

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