Objectives: To evaluate a South African workplace HIV/AIDS peer-education programme running since 1997.
Methods: In 2001 a cross-sectional study was done of 900 retail-section employees in three geographical areas. The study measured HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS, belief about self-risk of infection, and condom use as a practice indicator. The impact of an HIV/AIDS peer-education programme on these outcomes was examined.
Results: Training by peer educators had no significant impact on any outcome. Fifty-nine per cent of subjects had a good knowledge score, 62% had a positive attitude towards people with HIV/AIDS, 34% used condoms frequently, and the majority of participants (73%) believed they were at low risk of infection. Logistical regression showed that a very small proportion of the variance in the four outcomes was explained by potential determinants of interest (8% for knowledge, 6% for attitude, 7% for risk and 17% for condom use).
Conclusions: The HIV peer-education programme was found to be ineffective and may have involved an opportunity cost. The programme contrasts with more costly comprehensive care that includes antiretrovirals. The private sector appears to have been as tardy as the public sector in addressing the epidemic effectively.