Lovedale TVET College students get tested as World AIDS Day approaches

Zwelitsha, Eastern Cape, 14 November 2016 – Hundreds of students at the Lovedale TVET College today flocked to the health and HIV activation to get tested for HIV and screened for STIs, TB and other health conditions.

Organised at Lovedale TVET College as part of an ongoing national stream of HIV and health activations by the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) First Things First programme, the students also took advantage of the information, counselling, referrals for treatment and the entire package of health and support services that are covered by the programme.

This includes the distribution of condoms, screening for non-communicable diseases, and sexual reproductive health advice.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana – who attended today’s event – champions the programme. His visits to colleges are part of the Department of Higher Education and Training and HEAIDS engagement with the 76 public institutions which are the beneficiaries of the HEAIDS Programme.

The First Things First programme is a national collaboration focussed on advancing health education and awareness of HIV, STIs, TB and other related health and social conditions which affect the progress of young people in all spheres of their lives.

Speaking at the Zwelitsha campus today, Deputy Minister Manana highlighted that his visit to Lovedale College is days away from two significant national commemorations: the 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children (begins on 16 November) and World AIDS Day (on 1 December). 

“HIV, sexual and gender-based violence, student success and national development are all issues that intersect with each other. Without keeping students healthy and HIV-free, we cannot gain from investments in education – in fact, they get eroded by ill health which does not only affect students but their families, communities and the entire country,” said Deputy Minister Manana.

He explained that the Department of Higher Education and Training and HEAIDS are investing resources to conceptualise and roll out a comprehensive programme to address sexual and gender-based violence across the higher education and training sector in 2017.

“This is in recognition that violence, including rape, is one of the structural drivers of the HIV epidemic and certainly one of the key obstacles to better achievements in our higher education sector.

“Other drivers of the epidemic are unplanned pregnancies, socio-economic imbalances and drugs and alcohol abuse. Addressing these are deliberate strategies of HEAIDS and the government,” said Manana.

First Things First reaches across 429 campuses of the 50 public technical vocational education and training colleges (TVETs) and 26 universities to benefit about two million students. It is poised to contribute significantly to the test and treat strategy of the Department of Health. This will help to ensure a quality life for those infected and simultaneously reduce the level of infection within families and communities.

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Director of HEAIDS, said that First Things First is now in its sixth successful year. It speaks to the first priority of every young South African to look after their health and well-being.

The 2015 First Things First data has shown that more than 175 000 young people were screened and tested for HIV. The programme was also a critical intervention that brought essential sexual reproductive health and rights services within students’ easy access.

Dr Ahluwalia stressed that healthy and productive graduates are a cornerstone of a healthy economy: “Universities and colleges provide the ideal environment within which to improve students’ knowledge about HIV, STIs, TB and other health conditions and to promote testing and services to protect and care for young people,” concluded Dr Ahluwalia