Seven years ago, HIV and AIDS were having a devastating impact on Africa’s truck drivers. Without access to health services along their routes, HIV was left unchecked, and, just like the goods drivers were transporting, able to move along corridors into communities across the continent. The impact of this was not only being felt by truck drivers and their families, however. For people living near truck stops and borders, HIV was simply devastating.
In August 2005, our founding partners The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and global express company TNT, opened a single roadside clinic (in a blue shipping container) in Malawi to provide healthcare to the truck drivers they were depending on to deliver food aid throughout the region. Recognising the tremendous benefit of this single centre, as well as an overwhelming need across the continent for similar services, WFP and TNT established North Star Alliance, and in 2006 tasked us with the goal of establishing a network of ‘Blue Boxes’ along key transport arteries across Africa.
In the seven years since, we’ve worked with a dedicated group of partners to do just that. From a single clinic with 5,000 patients in 2006, we now operate clinics in 13 countries across Africa that saw over 215,000 people in 2012 alone for a full spectrum of health services. Last year, this included over 46,000 HIV counseling and testing sessions.
The world has also rallied during this time and placed a growing emphasis on ensuring key and hard-to-reach populations, including truck drivers and sex workers, have access to the information and health services they need to stay healthy. This recognition has enabled us to expand, and has contributed substantially to global reductions in new HIV infections, AIDS-related deaths, and increased access to medication.
Today, as we recognise World AIDS Day, and remember all those lost, we would also like to recognise the efforts of people around the world who are working tirelessly to improve access to health and create a world without AIDS. For us, this includes the efforts of our staff and partners whose shared sense of energy, passion, and purpose drive our work, and provide a constant source of personal inspiration.
A world with zero discrimination, zero new infections and zero AIDS-related deaths is possible and in sight. From all of us, thank you for allowing North Star to play a role in helping communities across Africa progress toward these objectives.
North Star Alliance