5 Things You Should Know About the HIV/AIDS response at UWC
For decades, HIV/AIDS has been one of the chief challenges for humanity, both globally and locally - of the millions of sufferers worldwide, over 70%of those living with Aids reside in Africa, and in South Africa, there are over 1000 new infections every day. To tackle this issue, we all need to do our part (as can be seen the International Aids Conference in Durban last week).
Here’s how UWC lends a hand with HIV/AIDS...
- Testing & Counselling:The UWC HIV & AIDS Programme encourages students and staff to know their status, and protects the rights and dignity of HIV/Aids sufferers. The Programme offers free, confidential HIV testing and counselling to the entire UWC community, provided by a full-time HIV counsellor and health promoter (situated at the Campus Health Clinic). Students who test positive are linked to a care and support programme that provides access to individual and group support, nutritional and spiritual counselling, and access to ARVs and infection treatment, as well as information on healthy living.
- Learning From Each Other:Peer educators are one of the HIV & AIDs Programme’s key approaches in the fight to prevent new HIV infections. The peer educators provide information, change attitudes and help equip students with necessary skills to avoid high-risk practices, both on and off campus – thus developing student leadership with a strong personal commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and addressing sexual violence. In addition, the peer educators are responsible for the distribution of condoms on main campus, and in the off-campus residences.
- Community Outreach & Education: It takes a village to deal with a challenge as big as HIV/AIDS...which is why community outreach is such an important part of the HIV & AIDS Programme. Supported by donor funding and in conjunction with UWC’s Faculty of Education, the programme uses trained peer facilitators to handle group sessions with grade 8 to 12 learners at partner schools in the Western Cape. By partnering with principals, teachers, parents, management teams and governing bodies, the project has been able to help schools create HIV policies that meet their own particular needs and challenges.
- Research:Dr Imogen Wright and SANBI recently took runner-up position at the African Innovation Prize awards for their game-changing Exatype software that determines HIV positive patients' responsiveness to ARVs - helping them avoid drugs to which they are resistant, and increasing treatment effectiveness. And that’s just one of the over 200 different UWC research projects relating to various aspects of HIV/AIDS, ranging from postgrad theses to large collaborative projects.The UWC Centre for Research in HIV & AIDS helps to foster synergies among UWC’s research teams and helps them actively engage communities.
- Sexual Diversity Training:HIV/AIDS is about people, not just a virus - and around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people are discriminated against, especially when it comes to AIDS-related discussions. That’s why the HIV & AIDS Programme, in partnership with the Faculty of Education and sponsored by USAID, has given students the opportunity to complete the first-ever university-accredited course on sexual diversity and the role of educators. The course aims to equip teacher with the attitudes and skills to be respectful and supportive of LGBTIQ matters that arise in schools and classrooms.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The greatest challenge people infected and affected by HIV face relates to stigma. Stigma denies people access to testing, treatment and care and support and the fear of being stigmatized prevents people from seeking HIV information. As staff and students, individually and collectively, we are all tasked with the responsibility to create a university free of HIV and AIDS discrimination.
If you want to know more about living with the disease, or about preventing its transmission, or about what you can do to aid in the fight, just visit the HIV & AIDS Portal here, or contact HIV & AIDS Programme coordinator Joachim Jacobs on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And please do take part in the free and confidential HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign at UWC this week. Remember, knowledge is power...so why not power up?