Kynoch observes AIDS Day event
Hydro Agri's Kynoch fertilizer plant in Potchefstroom, South Africa, held its second annual AIDS Day event on Thursday in early observance of World AIDS Day on December 1.
Some 200 employees and guests from the community were welcomed by factory manager Bodo Götschel.
"We can be proud of this event... and I am increasingly satisfied with the progress of the HIV/AIDS program," Götschel said - in reference to the internal exchange endeavor started between Hydro and Norwegian NGO, Fredskorps, in summer 2001.
"Attendance by both employees and management was impressive... the event, especially the theatre piece (by Hecate Theatre Company of Johannesburg) captivated the audience," he remarked.
"The complicated matter of HIV/AIDS came through - know your status."
"Our goal is to increase awareness among employees about HIV/AIDS, hopefully reducing its spread among personnel and their families," said Kynoch HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator Audrey Stark, who arrived in April 2002 as part of the Hydro/Fredskorps exchange.
In the southern region of the Northwest Province in South Africa, where the Kynoch factory is located, some one-third of inhabitants are infected with HIV. The local newspaper Potchefstroom Herald reports that the figure has not yet stabilized - meaning infections are still rising.
In the Sub-Saharan region of Africa, some 29.4 million adults are infected with HIV, according to a new UNAIDS and World Health Organization update. The adult prevalence rate in the region is 8.8 percent, some 58 percent of which are women. "Yet, there are new, hopeful signs that the epidemic could eventually be brought under control," the report claims. "Positive trends seem to be taking hold among younger people in a number of countries. In South Africa, for pregnant women under 20, HIV prevalence rates fell to 15.4% in 2001 (down from 21% in 1998)."
Globally, the number of people living with HIV today has risen to 42 million, up from 40 million at the end of 2001. Five million people were newly-infected and 3.1 million people were killed by the disease in 2002.
"Our guest speaker on AIDS Day was popular former soccer player Phil Masinga who played on one of this area's favorite teams and later in Europe," Stark remarked. Masinga, who scored the winning goal that took South Africa to the World Cup in 1998, "delivered a motivational speech about AIDS awareness and encouraged people to know their HIV status."
The event also presented a quiz show in which employees competed for the first prize - a trophy and restaurant voucher - by answering questions about HIV/AIDS.
AIDS Day also featured a candle lighting ceremony led by the Tshepong AIDS Project - "The local LoveLife Franchise," a speech by managing director Doug McCullouch, and concluded with the theatre piece entitled "Live On, Live Long."
Kynoch employees also received an AIDS pin and golf shirts designed by the Kynoch HIV/AIDS task team, which incoporate the UNAIDS slogan, "Live and let live."
"We want to help prolong the lives of employees and improve their quality of life," Stark commented. "We're trying to generate openness about the illness and to reduce the stigmatization of those already infected."
Kynoch will start providing voluntary HIV/AIDS counseling and testing for its 400 employees in December. Some 10 trained counselors, selected from the workforce by the employees themselves last year, will serve the program. Counseling and testing will be offered at the company clinic twice weekly in three hour sessions. Stark and a company nurse will also take part.