Feature story

North Star Alliance road show highlights work of its network of mobile clinics along transport corridors in Africa

29 March 2011

A 40-foot converted shipping container making its way around European cities is vividly highlighting the work of North Star Alliance. Credit: UNAIDS

A 40-foot converted shipping container making its way around European cities is vividly highlighting the work of North Star Alliance. This public-private partnership is committed to building a network of roadside clinics at transport ‘hotspots’ in Africa to provide long-haul truck drivers, sex workers and surrounding communities with access to basic health care.

This week the North Star Alliance road show, with its container-based model wellness centre, arrived in Geneva. UNAIDS and World Health Organization staff were able to see for themselves exactly how these centres operate. Many took advantage of the opportunity to receive free medical checks, including blood pressure  testing.

From HIV prevention to antihistamines

This is one of the best public-private partnerships I’ve seen. It works well. Each partner brings specialist expertise and knowledge to make a strong and cohesive intervention that’s really making a difference

Robin Jackson, UNAIDS’ representative on the board of North Star

The broad range of services on offer in a typical wellness centre includes condom distribution, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, information on HIV prevention and nutrition, basic eye tests, malaria treatment and even getting antihistamines for the common cold. Most centres also offer HIV counselling and testing and access to a behaviour change communication specialist. North Star is planning to expand its services to include greater support for antiretroviral therapy and tuberculosis screening.

There are now 22 wellness centres in 10 countries in east and southern Africa. By the end of 2014 there will be 100 such centres covering 85% of the major transport corridors on the continent. 

In the field, the shipping containers are placed at border posts or transit towns where truckers congregate and are open late, when drivers have parked for the night and sex work tends to take place. In general mobile workers, who often have to spend long periods away from their families, may have multiple partners and use the services of sex workers.

A model partnership

A broad range of services are on offer including condom distribution, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, information on HIV prevention and nutrition, basic eye tests, and malaria treatment. Credit: UNAIDS

North Star Alliance is an independent non-governmental organization, supported by five core partners: the express distribution company TNT, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the World Food Programme, UNAIDS and ORTEC, a large provider of logistics software. It is seen as a model of public-private partnership.

According to Robin Jackson, UNAIDS’ representative on the board of North Star; “This is one of the best public-private partnerships I’ve seen. It works well. Each partner brings specialist expertise and knowledge to make a strong and cohesive intervention that’s really making a difference. ”