It’s all about people

It is easy to get distracted by debates about HIV/Aids statistics and possible treatments, but the reality is that people are dying.

It was with this in mind that Standard Bank adopted “It’s About People” as its call to arms in the fight against HIV/Aids.
In 2001 Standard Bank — the corporate winner of this year’s Investing in Life Award — adopted a focused, committed approach to its fight against HIV/Aids.

But the epidemic was not the bank’s only concern. Peter Philip, head of corporate health at Standard Bank, says: “At the time South Africa was going through some of the earlier waves of hijackings, bank robberies and cash-in-transit heists. This led to a significant level of trauma at the bank and we needed to help our staff cope. We were given a brief to implement an employee well­being programme to deal with issues around staff trauma and HIV.”

In 2002 the bank rolled out independent counselling and advisory services in several provinces.

“The advisory services [programme] is a valuable supplier of professional assistance services to our staff. The programme provides staff and their families with telephonic counselling and, when required, up to eight face-to-face sessions per issue per person in a year,” says Philip.

At the end of 2002 the bank launched its HIV/Aids communications campaign. “Our champions [or voluntary peer educators] do the work, carry the message, hold workshops and encourage people to engage in voluntary counselling and testing,” says Philip.

In 2003 about 10 000 staff members took part in the banking sector prevalence survey and voluntarily tested for HIV.

The banking sector came out with a 3,4% prevalence rate — low compared with other sectors — but the large sample size meant information was gleaned from different demographic groups. “The survey showed that it did not matter whether someone was an executive, manager, service staff member or involved in clerical work, HIV existed in your group,” Philip says.

In 2004/05 the bank launched its award-winning HIV/Aids education and training campaign, Bridges of Hope.

“Bridges is the most fantastic training tool because it is not about some guy in a lab coat waving his finger under people’s noses and saying they must ‘put a condom on before they put it in’,” says Philip. “It is about making people understand their values … and that to achieve their dreams and aspirations there are certain things they must do or not do.”

Philip says Standard Bank’s approach to wellness has shifted from a focus on HIV/Aids and trauma to a broad-based, holistic wellness programme that is founded on good business sense.

“We will have a programme that is for everyone and offers value to all our employees. It is the chronic diseases and the lifestyle diseases that cause the greatest number of deaths and, according to the World Health Organisation, it is only going to get worse,” says Philip.

“The process is designed to be fun and to assist in team building,” he says. “At the same time, we are showing good business sense as sick people are not as productive as healthy employees.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Big retailers need to step up to the plate

To stave off a multi-generational malnutrition crisis, the food industry must work with government to provide highly nutritious foods at cost during the pandemic

Crime stats mark a bitter start to Women’s Month

We must celebrate women’s achievements this month while agitating for structural change, argues Luke Waltham

From ‘academic boys’ to ‘sex-jaros’: What it means to be a black boy in a South African township

Toxic masculinities help drive everything from HIV infection rates to gender-based violence. But before we ask, what does it mean to be a ‘man’ in South Africa, should we wonder what it’s like to be a boy?

South Africa prioritises fossil fuels over clean energy in post-Covid-19 recovery packages

The country is among the G20 countries who have invested in electricity produced from coal, oil and gas at the cost of addressing climate change

Challenges and opportunities for telemedicine in Africa

Telemedicine in Africa is currently limited by the availability of basic infrastructure, but, considering the lack of doctors in rural areas, it is a vital component in addressing the continent’s healthcare needs

Fight the disease of corruption in the same way we fight the coronavirus

Gogo Dlamini, Themba Dlamini’s mother, died of Covid-19, but Mzanzi has a chance to rid the country of fraud and exploitation and instead serve ‘Gogo Dlamini’, the people of South Africa

Treasury presents Covid-19 corruption action plan

Reports of corruption, over-pricing and the delivery of sub-standard PPE have become the norm over the past five months as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic

Metro cops, SAPS clash over control

Tensions between the City of Cape Town and the police service over responsibilities mirrors the strain between national and local government

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday