New clinics aim to give students more access to free healthcare

On Thursday 26 April 2018, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, addressed students at the official launch of 16 new on-site health clinics at 16 TVET colleges campuses in Limpopo. The announcement was met with applause during the Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre’s (HEAIDS) ‘First Things First’ provincial activation at Capricorn TVET college.

These new clinics are a direct result of MEC for Health in Limpopo, Dr. Phophi Ramathuba, responding to the need in the area. The clinics are staffed by nurses from Monday to Friday and provide on-site testing and screening for HIV, TB and STIs, and offers family planning to college students and staff. The sites have been strategically positioned in areas where there is limited access to other healthcare services. “Students who come from impoverished backgrounds often do not have access to, or knowledge of how to access primary healthcare. We need to advocate and help students realise that they need to make looking after their health a priority,” said Manamela,

A recent study indicates that youths in Limpopo between the ages of 15 and 24, have one of the highest incidence of early sexual debuts in the country*. Early sexual debut increases an individual’s risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

 “Our experience shows that it takes a combination of permanent and mobile interventions to combat the spread of HIV, TB and STIs,” said Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, CEO of HEAIDS. “By providing routine access to basic essential services to our students, we are moving closer to our target of reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In 2017, we provided HIV testing and counselling to more than 200 000 students in universities and TVET colleges across South Africa through our First Things First Programme.” he concludes.

“The approach seems to be working, our clinics have exceeded all footfall targets since they opened their doors. We hope this best practice model can be replicated in other provinces and continue to make a difference in young South African lives.  This is another step in our journey towards an HIV-free country,” Manamela concludes.