Certain HIV positive UCT staff members are set to receive free anti-retrovirals and counselling following a decision by the University's Council to implement a comprehensive HIV/AIDS Intervention Programme.
The decision, the first of its kind for a South African university, will provide permanent, T2 (two to five-year contracts) and T3 (five-year contracts) staff members with proactive and ongoing HIV awareness, diagnosis, treatment and support at no cost.
The programme will offer an holistic service to UCT's employees who are eligible to join the University's medical aid through the provision of:
- HIV testing
- HIV-related laboratory tests
- pre- and post-test counselling
- treatment counselling
- anti-retroviral therapy (ART) including triple therapy
- pre-ART treatment namely nutritional supplements
- psychological counselling
- post-accidental exposure prophylaxis including rape
- treatment of opportunistic infections and other sexually transmitted infections
- disease monitoring (CD4 count and Viral Load), and
- a 24-hour medical emergency call centre.
Speaking to Monday Paper, Margie Tainton, UCT's organisational health and retirement manager, explained that the University's policy on HIV/AIDS called for an extensive institutional approach to combating the pandemic.
"Together with UCT's organisational health plan, which promotes good health and safety in the workplace, the HIV/AIDS policy aims to mitigate the impact of the disease on the University community," Tainton said. "The intervention programme maximises UCT's investment in its staff and allows it to better manage its human capital.
"Besides ensuring that UCT is prepared for the related absenteeism and loss of productivity the disease inflicts, the programme will ensure we are able to prolong employees' healthy working time and to manage their degenerating health," she added.
With the entire intervention programme managed by Direct Aids Intervention (DAI), a partnership between Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions and Right to Care, participation in the programme is strictly confidential to the individual.
An encrypted IT system will allocate a unique number to each employee, which protects the identity of all employees who decide to be tested for HIV.
Only DAI doctors will know the identity of employees that undergo treatment and while employees can choose which laboratories, doctors and drug delivery points to use, no one at UCT will know about the HIV treatment.
In addition, any correspondence sent to an employee who is undergoing treatment (including medication) will not have any identifiable logos on the envelope.
The programme is voluntary and is free for all qualifying employees. UCT will cover the full cost of the benefits and treatment offered by the programme, expected to amount to an escalating R1- million a year.
"UCT will be billed for the HIV treatment," said Tainton. "No employee will receive any medical bill or statement about HIV."
It has been a long road since the November 2002 University Council meeting where a sub-committee was appointed to investigate and make recommendations on provisions for staff with HIV/AIDS.
Following a series of recommendations made by this sub-committee to Council at its February 2003 meeting, Council referred the question of the affordability of the project to the University Finance Committee (UFC).
The UFC reported the costs of the project would be offset by its benefits and that the model would be sensitive to potential variables such as changes in the prevalence of HIV among University staff, variation in costs of medication and changes in government policy.
The intervention programme will be officially launched by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, on Friday, July 25, in Jameson Hall at 10h00.
"Part of a brief from Council to Dave van Eeden, executive director of human resources, which we will be promoting, is to encourage as many staff as possible to go for voluntary testing," said Tainton.
"We therefore urge all qualifying employees to attend the launch and to share in what is a progressive and enormously beneficial programme initiated by the University."