Peer Educators

In offering HIV-related education, counselling and support in the workplace, peer educators are in many respects at the coalface of the epidemic. Research shows that over 80 percent of the country’s peer educators know someone who is HIV-positive or who has died of an AIDS-related illness. Any company intent on creating an effective HIV/AIDS programme will need to establish a strong peer education component. SABCOHA aims to offer the right type of support to business for Peer Educators.

Contact: Harold Bakoba for more information:  or Office No (011) 476 4270: Cell 073 610 8779

The South African Peer Educator Association

It is estimated that there are approximately 150 000 trained peer educators in companies around South Africa as a part of workplace programmes established to assist in the response to HIV and AIDS. While much of their work takes place in the work setting, peer educators are also important resources to their communities where they provide support, advice and information. Given their important role, SABCOHA has identified the need for peer educators to be supported in order for them to contribute effectively and efficiently over the long term.

In 2011 SABCOHA established the South African Peer Educator Association. With over 2000 members, SAPEA presents an ideal opportunity for Peer Educators to be better co-ordinated, and updated on current best practice. With the support of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB, and Malaria, our full time co-ordinator, Harold Bokaba, hosts regular meetings with Peer Educators across the country. Peer Educators are also able to receive counselling and debriefing through the SAPEA support line.

All Peer Educators, whether they operate in the workplace or community, or public or private sector are called to join SAPEA.

Annual Membership Fees

  • SABCOHA Member Company Peer Educators pay a fee of R114.00 incl. VAT p.a. each
  • Non-member Company Peer Educators need to pay a fee of R171.00 incl. VAT p.a. each
  • Individual Peer Educators that join at their own expense pay R114.00 incl. VAT p.a.

Note: The membership fee is valid for 1 year and has to be paid into the SAPEA Bank Account.

For more about SAPEA, and how to join Click here.

Please email Harold Bokaba if you want to join SAPEA


Workplace HIV/AIDS peer educators in South African companies – Dr David Dickinson

Talking about Peer Educators (May 2007)

The latest research findings of “Talking About AIDS: A study of informal activities undertaken by workplace HIV/AIDS peer educators in a South African company” by David Dickinson, associate professor at Wits Business School, shed new light on the “black box” that is the often confidential and intimate interactions that take place between peer educators and their peers.

Dickinson’s research – based on the diary recordings over 20 months of seven peer educators at a large mining house – “scrutinizes the ‘informal activity’ that comprises a critical aspect of peer education”.

dickinsonPresented at the Wits Business School in May 2007, Dickinson’s findings bear out many of his earlier research findings (see below). But given the range of environments that peer educators operate in, these findings can only be “tentatively generalised to other peer educators whose specific situations and activities may differ from those outlined here”, writes Dickinson.

Some key points emerged from the research into this particular group of peer educators:

  • Common topics are condoms and femidoms and open talk on HIV/AIDS.
  • Peer educators respond to “sexual networks” – for example, a miner who has a wife at home and a girlfriend near the mine – and identify the “pressure points” of these networks where HIV transmission can be limited.Peer educators are taken more seriously and have more power if they participate in workplace structures such as unions.
  • Most informal encounters occur because the peer educator is known and is approached by peers.
  • Most peer educators are African which contributes to the “racialising” of the epidemic. More white peer educators are needed to counter this and to prevent prevalence levels rising among whites.
  • In the absence of a cure from western medicine, many people continue to hold alternative health beliefs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. This creates complex problems for peer educators. Greater collaboration with alternative health practitioners is needed.
  • Peer educators’ oral language skills are extensive but ability to read and write is mixed. Training needs to be tailored to match the true literacy levels of peer educators.
  • Sometimes unproductive interactions such as “soap operas”, which drain the energy of peer educators, or uncreative, formal activity which alienates peers, occurs between peer educators and peers.
  • Peer educators benefit from regular meetings with each other.

To download the full report click here:  wbs_peer_review_report_2007 1.66 Mb

(Members will receive hard copies of the report by mail.)

Case study: Five large SA companies

In the largest research project into peer educators in SA and the globe to date, Dickinson conducted research in five large South African companies with a combined workforce of more than 120 000 permanent and non-permanent employees. Together, the companies have around 1 780 peer educators – on average one peer educator to 69 employees. He gathered research data by means of questionnaires, interviews and participatory observation.

Key findings

There is an over-representation of women – particularly African women – among peer educators, when compared with the company’s employee profile;

  • There are very few peer educators in the symbolically important ranks of top and senior management;
  • Around half of peer educators are volunteers and around 20 percent are elected by colleagues;

Peer educators play several key roles: influencer; adviser; stigma buster; normaliser; sex talker; family builder; and condom king;

  • While peer educators are trained, gaps in training are apparent and refresher courses are needed. Most HIV/AIDS programmes are under-resourced;
  • Although peer educators are motivated by concern for others, many believe they should receive payment for their work, which is extensive and not always visible;
  • An estimated 150 000 peer educators around the country participate in more than 20 million conversations around HIV/AIDS every year;
  • The organisation of peer educators within and between companies is vastly uneven:
  • There is a lack of synergy between peer educators and unions;
  • The environment in which a peer educator works is often vastly different from that outlined in company policy – usually due to production pressure;
  • Peer educators need to deal with many different beliefs and attitudes and many show enormous flexibility in this regard;
  • Peer education falls somewhere between activism and professionalism – both extremes should be avoided;
  • In diverse ways peer educators make a major contribution to the national response to HIV/AIDS.

Research material

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