Over 200 000 students at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges have been tested for HIV and Aids since 2013.
This is according to Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana who paid a visit to the False Bay TVET College in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape on Wednesday to activate the First Things First Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS (HEAIDS) Programme.
The HEAIDS programme was initially launched at universities in 2000 to contribute to the National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS 2012-2016 which seeks to eradicate the HIV and Aids scourge among students.
The programme was extended to TVET colleges in 2013 because, the Deputy Minister said, the people who are affected by socio-economic conditions are those in TVET colleges, especially those in rural areas.
He said the introduction of the programme to TVET colleges had been a worthwhile intervention.
“I am happy that ever since we launched this programme in TVET colleges in 2013, we have made significant progress. We are nearing the end of 2015 and we have reached out to all the campuses and overall we have tested over 200 000 people.
“What it means is that even those that tested positive know now what they need to do to live longer,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said the programme was designed to offer support to those that test positive through treatment. It further provides a health advisory service that includes counselling and Tuberculosis
(TB) and sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening.
“This has been a worthwhile exercise. It is a major intervention led by government and the private sector. Having tested more than 200 000 students, I think we have made tremendous strides in … protecting our young people from perishing like flies,” he said.
Ahead of the Deputy Minister’s visit, students made use of the health screening facilities that were set up as part of the HEAIDS programme.
Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the director of the HEAIDS programme, said approximately 300 students tested for HIV and were screened for STIs.
The activation of the HEAIDS programme at the False Bay TVET College marked the seventh campus visit across seven provinces by the Deputy Minister. Of the over 200 000 that were tested since 2013, some 130 000 were tested in 2015 alone, while 97 000 TVET students were tested last year.
“The Deputy Minister chooses rural areas or campuses in informal settlements – areas where we have a challenge of HIV,” he said.
He said a person who is tested for HIV and found to be positive stands the chance of living longer by being treated and managing other illnesses.
“The First Things First Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS (HEAIDS) Programme is an award-winning programme. It was awarded as the number one programme in 2011 for two consecutive years,” he said.
False Bay TVET College Principal Cassie Kruger said his campus had been active in encouraging students to participate in volunteer HIV testing campaigns and screening for other diseases as it is located in a community that is vulnerable to the pandemic.
“Sadly, on a regular basis, not only students but also staff have passed away because of [HIV and Aids]. We have also experienced sad events where students come to college and to find out that they are now on their own because their parents have passed away,” he said.
He said TVET colleges can assist in the fight against HIV and Aids by ensuring there is a culture of regular testing. – SAnews.gov.za