Dubbed the Powerbelt HIV/AIDS project, the initiative presently encompasses 32 collieries in eastern Mpumalanga, extending from Witbank through Secunda to Standerton, and has a planned duration of 10 years.
The project was initiated following findings of a social and geographic assessment which showed that, by involving the workforce and communities, significant changes to high-risk behaviour can be achieved. The principle approach is to target high risk population groups such as sex workers or women at high risk, their clients, school children and surrounding residents of informal settlements, i.e. mine workers. The promotion of safer sex, distribution of condoms, the upgrading of staff in hospitals and clinics as well as traditional healers in syndromic training and the treatment of STDs/HIV/AIDS, and facilitating access to medical services all form part of the programme. The implementation of home-based care for terminally ill patients is also an important component.
The social upliftment component of the project is focusing on the creation of formal and informal jobs opportunities within the region, but is also concerned with other community needs such as the provision of the basic services of water, sanitation, refuse and electricity.
Speaking at the launch of the Powerbelt HIV/AIDS project, Deputy Minerals and Energy Minister Susan Shabangu said that "government, along with labour, business and other sectors of our society, needs to redouble its efforts in its fight against this pandemic and must continue to seek new and innovative ways of dealing with the virus. We are getting tough on HIV/AIDS."