Independant On-line, 'Supply of gloves a must for cops', 2 August 2004

Lee Rondganger

Police officers patrolling our streets do not only have to contend with dangerous criminals, they also face the risk of contracting HIV/ Aids or Hepatitis B.

This, say the police unions, is because many officers are not being supplied with rubber gloves - sometimes their first and only defence against the deadly diseases - when dealing with injured people.

Now, the unions are up in arms and are calling on management to ensure that officers are equipped with rubber gloves.

Although police management claim that every police station is supplied with rubber gloves, the unions and some officers dispute it.

'It is one thing talking about HIV education, they must show us'
"They are not doing enough to ensure every policeman has these precautionary tool," said Abbey Witbooi, general secretary of Popcru.

"Our members are often exposed to bleeding HIV-positive people, which makes them vulnerable. Rubber gloves are not always readily available and we believe that management is not doing enough," he said.

Baptist Sigidi, president of the SA Police Union, agreed.

"Police members often have to pick up bodies with their bare hands. I know this because I was at an accident once where we had no gloves. Although they are required to provide us with rubber gloves, they are not implementing it at grassroots level. It is one thing talking about HIV education, they must show us," he said.

However, police management disagreed and said that rubber gloves are provided to officers.

National police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mary Martins-Engelbrecht said it was standard practice for every police station and vehicle to be equipped with rubber gloves.

"The SAPS Logistics department at head office makes provision for enough equipment to be ordered by the different provincial offices as the need arises in the respective provinces.

"In other words, National Logistics always ensures that there is enough stock available for the different provinces," she said.

Police officers approached by The Star said that they would rather let a bleeding person die than touch them without gloves.

"If there are no gloves, I would not even touch someone who is bleeding," said a policeman from the Hillbrow police station.

Dr Linda Gray of the Chris Hani Baragwanath perinatal HIV research unit said police should wear protective gloves as a matter of logic.

"Police workers are vulnerable and should be trained to wear rubber gloves because they often come into contact with people that are bleeding.

"Wearing rubber gloves should be second nature to these workers, not only for the fear of contracting HIV/Aids, but also Hepatitis B, which is a debilitating disease," she said.

Gray said it should be practice for all workers dealing with people where body fluids are exposed to wear rubber gloves.

"We should then ask, why aren't they wearing those gloves? Is it because they are not being provided with it or is it because they are simply not wearing it?" she asked.

Mark Haywood, spokesperson for the Treatment Action Campaign, said using gloves while attending a person who is bleeding should go without question.

"Any policemen or women attending a scene where there is blood or body fluids should use gloves as a universal precaution. Because where there is bleeding one should always presume that that person could be infected with HIV/Aids. Although the chances of contracting Aids are small, that small possibility could be completely eliminated all together by the universal approach," he said.

This article was originally published on page 7 of The Star on August 02, 2004




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