4:30 a.m. It is still pitch black. The rest area on the N1, which connects Cape Town with the border to Zimbabwe, is overcrowded, like always. A white Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with the lettering “Trucking Wellness” is parked between rows of long trucks. It is rush hour for the mobile clinic. Equipped with medical measuring and test equipment, Trucking Wellness helps its target group where it is needed: along the highways. A nurse draws a blood sample from a man. An AIDS test that never would have happened without Trucking Wellness. Because the long-distance drivers only ever get an average of four hours’ sleep. They often spend months on the road before they spend another night at home. No time to visit doctors. A truck slows down as a woman approaches. A door opens. A door closes. This is where problems meet. And spread via the roads.
The target groups of Trucking Wellness are long-distance drivers and sex workers. With 22 stationary clinics, the aid program covers 80% of the most important highways. Trucking Wellness handles the remaining 20% with the mobile clinics. “A nurse and a medical adviser provide their services in each of the 16 vans”, says Tertius Wessels. “The mobile clinics enable us to provide education and information even in remote areas and give medical assistance.” The entire service is free and absolutely confidential. According to Tertius Wessels, identifying HIV in time is the top priority. Then there is often a good chance that the infected person will be able to live a relatively normal life. Can their ambitious goal for 2030 be achieved? Tertius Wessels is optimistic. In the last five years the number of new infections has decreased dramatically.
says Tertius Wessels, head of the Trucking Wellness program, expressing the hopeful goal. Mercedes-Benz is a long-standing project partner and provides an important contribution, supporting the program with a vehicle fleet of Sprinter and Vito. Trucking Wellness was initiated in 1999 by the road transport and logistics industry. Because HIV and AIDS have affected the country at an especially vulnerable point: supply reliability. According to estimates, every fifth driver was infected with HIV at that time. Kobus van Zyl, Managing Director of Daimler Trucks & Buses Southern Africa, is familiar with the personal tragedies. And also with the problems this has caused the economy: “We were constantly searching for qualified personnel to replace drivers who had become sick or died.”