What is a Workplace HIV/AIDS Champion?

In all honestly given the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS in Lesotho according to today’s statistics we should all be HIV/AIDS Champions. We should all as a society be making an effort to make sure that our brothers and sisters, or colleagues and bosses, our uncles and aunts, our neighbours in the city and the village are not only aware of the consequences of risky behaviour, but also behave in a manner that diminishes risk.

The HIV/AIDS Workplace Champion is the person trusted by the organisation to drive the HIV / AIDS campaign in the organisation. While many organisations might choose to have this as an HR responsibility, it is not only HR that can take on this responsibility.

Ideally an HIV/AIDS Champion is a person who has a more than normal interest in HIV. This person must have influence. An ability to trigger action in colleagues and have them listen is important for the Champion. The most important aspect of fighting the war against HIV / AIDS is behaviour change. Having a focal point person who has the respect of his or her colleagues goes a long way to building awareness and prompting behaviour change. This kind of influence also has the added advantage, giving everyone in the organisation ownership of any HIV / AIDS related activities. 

The support of management, Executive and the Board is also important. The champion must have sufficient weight to be able to influence decisions that impact on HIV Budget in the organisation. Without this support many HIV policies have not seen the light of day once a policy has been drawn.

In an ideal situation, the HIV Champion reports activities to the board instead of a manager or HR. This is because in terms of governance, the responsibility of the Health of the organisation is on the Board, or the Owners of the establishment. It is important that they have direct influence on the HIV initiative in their organisation.

As the focal points on all HIV related matters, Champions must be committedto their roles. This is not to say that the Champion must be an individual employed singularly for this purpose, but it does mean that with regard to the HIV issues, in the organisations he must have a dotted line reporting to the  most senior body in the organisation. Of course if the Organisation has many employees with many departments, there could either be a single HIV Champion doing only that job, or multiple Champions in different places.

Planning, innovating, and follow through, are just some of the competencies that the HIV / AIDS Champion must have. He or she will have the responsibility of making sure that the organisation has an HIV / AIDS plan every year. They must be able to follow through with it, and to produce reports on it for the board. This is a very important role, and should be given to a volunteer who has a track record of tenacity.

Networking both internally and externally is a part of this role. The Champion needs to always be aware of the HIV Climate in the organisation in order to plan strategically and address issues that exist within the team.  Externally, he should be aware of trends, projects and resources that are available to him. This also means that he should be good at communication, both receiving and delivery of news. Today deliveries are done mainly through technology, so ideally the Champion must be computer savvy.

In Lesotho we all have different beliefs that guide our thinking. It is important that the person that is guiding the HIV / AIDS effort in the organisation has a respect for all our different ways of thinking and beliefs. Too often people’s beliefs are ridiculed in mainstream culture, making it difficult to find a platform to discuss some issues of concern.

An HIV/ AIDS Champion must be a person who has a vision of a time that HIV / AIDS is only mentioned in the history books, and wants to be a part of the people to get us all there. 

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