Rising HIV/AIDS among truckers will impact on costs

SWAZILAND: Rising HIV/AIDS among truckers will impact on costs


AIDS has taken its toll on the trucking community

MBABANE, 30 Jul 2004 (PLUSNEWS) - The impact of HIV/AIDS on Swaziland's trucking sector is set to increase the price of food and all other goods transported by road, officials warned this week.

"The [transport] industry must note that by 2005 there will be too few drivers to meet the demand, especially those with the sort of experience that you need to handle expensive rigs," said a report by the Learning Clinic, a South African-based organisation that distributes HIV/AIDS information to the trucking community.

The clinic estimated that one out of seven truckers in South Africa had a sexually transmitted disease or was HIV positive.

"The cost of everything that is carried by trucks, which is virtually everything we use or buy, is bound to escalate when transportation firms pass on higher costs to clients, who will pass costs on to consumers. Inflation rates will rise - the poor will be hard hit by rising food prices," a researcher with the Central Bank of Swaziland told PlusNews.

Concerns have been raised that the landlocked country could experience shortages of food and consumer goods if AIDS continued to claim the lives of experienced long-distance drivers.

Eighty percent of Swaziland's imports and all its petroleum products come from South Africa. In recent years the tiny mountain kingdom has suffered food shortages - about one-third of Swazis currently depend on food aid brought in by road by the UN World Food Programme and other international donor agencies.

Truckers were particularly susceptible to HIV because of their itinerant lifestyles.

"Infection levels tend to be higher along trade routes and at border towns, where large numbers of men await clearance, sometimes for days, en route to their destinations, and where casual and commercial sex flourish," noted a report by the Southern African AIDS Information and Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), which ranked truck drivers, police, military personnel and migrant mine workers as occupations most at risk of acquiring HIV.

The organisation suggested that education programmes aimed at truckers be set up at national border crossings, where drivers congregate as they await customs or immigration clearances for the freight or passengers they are hauling.

"It is probably not wise to inform a driver he is HIV positive just before he (or she) drives a heavy vehicle hundreds of miles, with no support to cope with a positive result."


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