Wellness and HIV/Aids
One of the challenges facing South Africa is an
unusually high disease burden among its population.
The welfare and well-being of employees, as
fundamentally important stakeholders, is a priority
for the AECI Group. All permanent employees
domiciled in South Africa are encouraged to join
the AECI Medical Aid Society (“Society”). This Society
offers an option for comprehensive cover as well
as a more affordable option, the latter being fully
subsidised for lower income earners.
In line with the Group’s proactive and holistic
approach to healthcare, a Wellness Steering
Committee is in place. It is representative of
management, employees and trade unions and has
the responsibility of driving and monitoring wellness
initiatives and related strategies across the Group.
The aim is to move from an illness focus to one
of general well-being, acknowledging that overall
good health involves a multitude of facets, including
lifestyle elements. Employee assistance programmes
are in place and are accessible to the majority of
the Group’s workforce. These programmes provide
counselling on a variety of issues ranging from
financial guidance to help with post-traumatic stress.
To implement the Group’s wellness programme, peer
educators have been trained to become Champions
of Wellness. These Champions are employees who
volunteer to assist their colleagues in understanding,
preventing and managing HIV/Aids and other chronic
diseases. Advice on healthy lifestyles is another area of
focus. Emphasis is also placed on helping needy people
in the communities in which the Group operates.
Once fully trained as Champions of Wellness,
volunteers can continue their training to become
Champions of Life. At this advanced stage,
trainees are taught to set objectives, deal with
sensitive issues and sustain a meaningful quality
of life (“lead by example”). In the next phases of
the initiative, namely Champions of Change and
Champion Buddies, volunteers learn how to act
as agents to facilitate change in the way their
colleagues and community members view HIV/Aids.
During 2012 a new course was introduced into the
wellness programme, covering training on policies
and procedures relating to the management of
chronically ill employees. A conference and planning
workshop was held for the Champions and it was
most pleasing that two key unions representing
AECI employees became constructively involved.