The North Star Alliance provides mobile workers and related communities sustainable access to high-quality health and safety services through a network of interlinked Roadside Wellness Centre clinics.
Geographic Area of Impact: Southern, East and West Africa
Model: Leveraged Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 146,421 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 5,750,000
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2012
Southern African countries have the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rates. HIV prevalence in the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was estimated at 10.8% (2005), compared to 6.1% for the continent and 1% globally (2006). Separation from regular partners and established social norms, combined with poor access to prevention, treatment and care, put mobile workers at a heightened risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and other communicable diseases. They also play an important role in transmission due to their exposure to HIV while travelling; they then transmit disease home to their partners, who would otherwise be at a lower risk of exposure.
Innovation and Activities
The concept of North Star Alliance began in 1998 when Paul Matthew identified an urgent need for HIV prevention and STI treatment for long haul truck drivers in South Africa. Working with the Road Transport Industry Education and Training Board (RTIETB) at the time, he joined forces with the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight Industry to design a programme specifically for this high-risk population that had limited access to HIV prevention services. This joint activity spawned the Trucking Against AIDS programme and the development of 17 Roadside Wellness Clinics, providing truck drivers, mobile workers, sex workers and local communities with prevention, treatment, information and referrals for a range of health issues including: STIs, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, hypertension, HIV, nutrition, eye testing and condom distribution. With Trucking Against AIDS established in South Africa by 2005, Matthew founded North Star Alliance to establish a regional health services network; by the end of 2008, it had expanded to Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
In conjunction with one of its core partners, ORTEC, North Star has developed a tailor-made software programme called COMETS (Corridor Medical Transfer System) that is able to record patient information, diagnoses and treatments, and act as an electronic personal health passport for tracking and access throughout the network.
In 2012, North Star launched the NSEWA training initiative, enabling heavy vehicle operators to learn on the job through a self-paced, professional, recognized training programme. The programme works with international as well as national drivers to addresses the issue of road accidents involving heavy vehicle operators from outside of South Africa.
Paul Matthew became aware of the impact of HIV/AIDS on mobile workers in the 1990s. Through work with The Learning Clinic, an agency providing commercial training for the road transport industry, he realized how truck drivers were at risk and conceived Trucking Against AIDS. Through conversations with drivers, sex workers and community members he realized that they had no access to HIV prevention information or basic healthcare. In 2009, he joined North Star Alliance on a full-time basis as Director for Africa and has been an integral part of the organization’s growth from a staff of two (2008) to over 150 (2011), operating 23 Roadside Wellness Centres across 12 countries in Southern, East and West Africa.
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