HEAIDS enters the TVET sector: Peer Education at Ethekwini College, Durban

By Theophilus Nji

Peer education and training is one of the key priority areas of HEAIDS. On 10 March 2014 45 select students from all campuses of Ethekwini TVET College in Asherville-Durban benefitted from the HEAIDS’ Brothers for Life and ZAZI peer educator HIV/AIDS and TB training and empowerment programme; thanks to the Ethekwini TVET College (host) and DramAidE that served as peer educator implementers.

Open talk, games and ice breaker techniques were some tools amongst others used in this programme to allow for free discussion of subjects often regarded as taboo issues.

A 23 year old pregnant student wanted to know if it was possible to have sexual intercourse during menstruation and still fall pregnant: “I did not plan to fall pregnant as this is only my first year at varsity,” she added. The peer educators explained that it is possible to fall pregnant while experiencing blood flow. This is because for some unknown psychological, clinical or physical reasons, a woman can experience induced bleeding which may be misinterpreted as menstruation merely because it has occurred at a time when menstruation is expected.

A highly debated topic included Medical Male Circumcision, as well as students having multiple concurrent partners. Young men wanted to know why circumcision has become such an important issue when it comes to HIV Prevention and why HEAIDS advocates for it to be done early even though culturally “to become a true man you must go to the mountain” at 11years or older. Learners were made to understand that cervical cancer in women has been medically proven to have been caused as a result of having sex with men who are uncircumcised. Additionally an uncircumcised penis is more fragile such that it can easily develop a crack during dry and unprotected sex increasing the risk of new infections.

 

At the end of the workshop, when asked if this training was useful, learners agreed that they have gained new knowledge and now feel able to “differentiate the right information from the wrong one, thanks to HEAIDS that has offered us this unique opportunity”. Two students pledged to be circumcised as soon as their parents have consented. Other students volunteered to talk to one another about how important it is to know your HIV status while they await their First things First (HCT) activation.