According to UNAids estimates, in 2007 there were 33,2 million people living with HIV, 2,5 million people became newly infected with the virus and 2,1 million people died of Aids.
While many SA companies have some form of in-house HIV/Aids management programme, few have directly addressed the nutritional intake of employees infected with HIV/ Aids through the food served in their restaurants and canteens.
Fedics, the catering division of Tsebo Outsourcing Group, is one company that has.
Alan Brand, group national HIV/Aids manager explains: “All Fedics’ client recipes and menus have been re-engineered to proactively address nutritional intake, with particular attention to a balanced diet for improving immune systems which will benefit all employees, specifically those who are HIV-positive.”
Brand brings his own experiences to the table, having been diagnosed HIV-positive in 1997 and developing Aids in 1999.
“HIV wellness goes beyond the use of anti-retrovirals and must incorporate a growing emphasis on good nutrition which complements and reinforces the effect of any medication taken,” he says. “Fedics places the focus on living with HIV, not dying of Aids.”
Through campaigns such as “eat like a robot”, clients’ employees are encouraged to eat green, yellow and red vegetables and fruits daily to ensure they maintain a balanced diet.
“The evidence of eating well has been proven to prevent obesity and curb diabetes, as well as enable one to lead a healthy lifestyle,” Brand says.
Many companies, he explains, only think of HIV in relation to their clinic and ignore the huge percentage of employees who are already HIV-positive.
“Educating and counselling HIV-infected employees on how to cope with living with the disease sets our programme apart from the rest.” Tsebo Outsourcing Group use peer educators to help with this. These “role models” in the workplace help to break down the negative stigma attached to being HIV-positive.