HIV/Aids will wreak havoc if staff are not trained to change behaviour

September 14, 2004

The biggest problem regarding the increasing number of HIV/Aids infected individuals is most people do not acknowledge that the country faces a crisis if something is not done to reduce the rate of infection.

According to a recent report on News24, research from the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA) shows that “the virus will kill about 900 South Africans a day over the next 12 months, while the death toll is expected to reach a peak of 1 100 people a day in 2014”.

Taking into account those figures, even if we can put a stop to new infections immediately, the fact is Aids has a window period of six to 12 years, so for at least another six years, 330 000 people will die each year from Aids.

South Africans are already most likely to die of HIV and Aids, which was responsible for 39% of all deaths in 2000, according to findings in the 2003/4 South African Health Review (SAHR). The SAHR is an annual report on the state of the nation’s health, produced by non-governmental organisation, the Health Systems Trust.

Aids-related illnesses were responsible for 40,3% of deaths of children under five, followed by low birth weight (11,2%) and diarrhoea (10,2%). The HIV and Aids pandemic has effectively reversed the health gains made in child health as, by 1998, the death rate for the under fives had been reduced to 59,4 per thousand, according to the SAHR.

These figures show the infection rate is still going up – and these are just reported cases. The actual figures are even higher, as some reported cases of TB can be related to HIV/Aids, for example.

Ignorance is a killer. People are avoiding the issue and are of the opinion that Aids is someone else’s problem. This attitude comes from the top. The government avoids talking about Aids, because if it acknowledges the extent of the issue it will be forced to roll out more anti retrovirals (ARVs).

Whereas the government should be setting the trend in Aids education and treatment, it is advising its citizens to change their diet.

Most corporates, excluding those in manufacturing, are also not taking responsibility for training their employees. They see it as something their staff should learn about themselves, or already know. Some of them have the attitude that since their staff are not suffering from the disease, why should they spend money training them about its risks?

One of the biggest challenges is to train people to change their behaviour. Most training is not focused on that. Smokers know smoking is bad for them, but they don’t stop, because the information about the risks of smoking is just that – information. It doesn’t encourage smokers to change their lifestyles.

The conventional classroom training model isn’t that effective. What works is when companies appoint peer educators to educate groups of about 10 people at a time. If they take that further, and train their staff electronically, as well as with audio visual aids, research has shown that retention is as much as 50% higher.

Training also works better when it is told in a story format. If a person reads 20 pages of material and another is told a story related to the same topic, the one who hears the story will retain more information, particularly if he has to make life-changing choices that result in disparate endings to the story.

Aids education has to result in people changing their behaviour. Simply telling them about Aids will solve nothing. The way to change their behaviour is by incentivising them to think before they act.

About Skills2Learn Africa
Skills2Learn Africa, a provider of world-class e-learning courseware and services, serves its worldwide customers’ e-learning systems requirements completely, consistently, and affordably, leading its staff and suppliers in achieving this goal. It is dedicated to increasing the quality, reliability, performance, and value of its e-learning products and services on an ongoing basis.

Skills2Learn Africa strives to positively impact the global communities where it conducts business, in particular assisting the disadvantaged in their quest to compete in the digital revolution. It brings best-of-breed learning tools to emerging markets at a price and value that makes mass access possible.

Together with US-based In2ition, Skills2Learn Africa specialises in IT-intensive educational courseware, as well as soft skills training, delivered in a variety of electronic formats. It also provides learning management systems to assist in tracking and managing employee progress through the training process.

Skills2Learn Africa has recently released a South African first HIV/Aids e-learning program, in an interactive story format, concentrating on behavioural modification as well as education.

George Eybers
Skills2learn Africa
(012) 997-6046

Rashmika Jeewa
HC Strategic Communications
(011) 608-1228