At the top of a vast open pit at the Geita Gold Mine, a group of men clad in bright reflective jackets, sturdy boots, protective goggles and helmets have their attention riveted on Boaz Kadikilo (29). He is using the lunch break to engage them in a discussion on condom use and the importance of testing for HIV.
What are the major challenges facing the miners and the surrounding community?
Most of the mine workers have come from other parts of the country so do not have their families here. Many men would go to the bars, get drunk and pick up women. Most of the men had multiple partners and did not take any precautions like using condoms. As a result HIV and STI infections were rising rapidly among the mineworkers and in the community.
What training have you received?
I was trained by Amref Health Africa in 2001 as a peer educator in the mining department. We were taught about HIV, how it is spread and how to avoid it. We learnt how to talk to our fellow workers and other people in the community and encourage them to go for counselling and regular testing.
What is your role in the mine and in the community?
I live in Geita town with my parents. I work as a dump truck driver in the mine, ferrying waste out of the mine to the dumping area and mineral ore to the crusher. I am also an HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) representative for my shift. At lunch time, I talk to my colleagues about getting tested so that they know their status and know how to take care of themselves and the importance of using condoms. When I am on night shift, the company allows me to use the internal radio to pass on messages about HIV.
What difference has your work made in the community?
I am proud of what I do and pleased with the results. People are more careful now than they used to be. They bring their girlfriends and wives to stay for a while instead of hooking up with local women. The miners use the clinic that Amref Health Africa has set up in Geita town, where they can go for check-ups, counselling and treatment. The clinic has reported a decrease in HIV prevalence and a fall in syphilis infections. More people are now using condoms and getting themselves tested.