WBCG halts HIV testing of truck drivers
26 June 2020 | Health
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), which facilitates HIV testing for truck drivers, says the coronavirus pandemic has led to these tests being put on ice.
The group has been able to test a total of 8 773 long-distance drivers between April 2015 and May 2020. Of the total, 450 truck drivers tested positive, with 75% of the truckers having supressed viral loads, wellness manager Edward Shivute said.
“There is an issue of social distancing. For you to do an HIV test, you need to take hold of someone's finger to prick them and to draw blood and there is constant discussion because of the counselling aspect,” he said.
“With HIV, you cannot compromise on counselling and making sure the person is ready to get the results. That has been a challenge and we have halted HIV testing for a period.”
As an alternative, the group has decided to give truck drivers self-testing kits.
Fewer take HIV meds
The pandemic has also led to fewer truck drivers taking their antiretroviral medication.
“At the beginning, we started to see that some drivers who were on treatment started to default.
“It has become a concern because that now leads to non-adherence issues and they will need to be put on a different treatment regime and they will be resistant. We are doing our best to integrate our services,” Shivute said.
Shivute added that the stigma around truck drivers has been worsened by the coronavirus outbreak.
“They have always been stigmatised because of the nature of their work. With Covid-19, this has been aggravated. Most of our drivers cross into countries that are said to be high-risk and these are our neighbouring countries.”
“The perception is that they bring in Covid-19 infections,” he added.
Shivute pointed out that the group was making attempts to address this stigmatisation, adding that the proportion of truck drivers infected with the coronavirus was much lower than the general population.