HEAIDS Director's Report from the Budget Speech 2016

Dear Colleagues,

It gives me immense pleasure to share with you that today under the leadership of our esteemed Minister Blade Nzimande and Deputy Minister Manana, HEAIDS and the First Things First Programme in particular will be given a platform in parliament as a part of the DHET Budget Speech to showcase the impact that the programme has had on the lives of our students. Two students will join the DHET team, as guests in parliament and will provide testimonies to reflect how through the First Things First Programme, they have managed not only to complete their studies but excel and become healthy citizens, living positively with HIV, while also contributing to the success of our economy. Their stories provide qualitative evidence of the potential impact that this programme may have on the lives of the other 175 000 young students tested, screened and treated by HEAIDS First Things First in 2015 alone.

Let me introduce the two brave South African Students:

Ms Unathi Bheme a young female student enrolled for a Bachelor of Education at Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) Mowbray Campus, who while pursuing studies at University of Western Cape where she tested HIV positive through First Things First, initially felt devastated and eventually dropped out of our system, failing to come to terms with her HIV status. Through continuous counselling and support services (supported by HEAIDS) rendered to her, she eventually enrolled at CPUT and graduated. Since then, she has also been actively involved in mobilising/recruiting fellow students to know their status through the First Things First Campaign on campus in her capacity as a First Things First peer educator for the programme. Living openly with her HIV status, has also enabled her to contribute to addressing the stigma and discrimination issues that still persist in our university spaces. As a Peer Educator and member of a campus support group, she has been instrumental in supporting many other fellow young students that have tested HIV positive from the campaign and is very appreciative of the First Things First programme extended to her, including the opportunity to complete her studies.

Ms Sithokozile Gcabashe, a student from the Durban University of Technology, is also living positively with HIV. Ms Gcabashe was sexually abused and got infected with the virus while enrolled in the system. However, at the University she received the HIV testing, treatment and care services as supported  by the HEAIDS programme, and also went through trauma counselling , where she learnt to share her status openly, receive treatment, continue with her studies and ultimately become an ambassador to the programme through sharing her story with other young people to redress stigma and discrimination. She is now turning the lives of many other Gender Based Violence survivors and helps hundreds of other students who are still struggling to accept their HIV status.

Listening to these testimonies helps us put a face to the work of HEAIDS and their success stories can only but be an inspiration to many students out there. I want to acknowledge each of you and the role that you play in enabling HEAIDS to impact on the lives of our students. Thanks to all of you for your support to HEAIDS