SIAN PASSANAH

 

The University of Pretoria (UP) was just one of 21 higher education institutions which took part in The Higher Education sector HIV/Aids survey conducted in 2009.

More than 23 000 respondents from the institutions were tested. These respondents included the students, academic staff, administration staff and service staff.

The survey was conducted by the Higher Education HIV and Aids Programme (HEAIDS), an initiative of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DoHET), and was funded by the European Union.

Reports were released revealing that the infection rates were lower than anticipated. The national HIV prevalence rate for students is 3.4%, for academic staff is 1.5%, for administrative staff is 4.4% and for service staff is 9.9%.

Ramaranka Mogotlane, Vice Principal of the University of Pretoria said, “A UP-specific report, released from the survey, calls for a greater participation from senior management and an increase for open debate.”

Mogotlane also stated that the university welcomed the reports as “giving a firm base for further discussion and research about HIV/Aids”.

Another HIV/Aids campaign calling for the open debate and discussion of the virus is the HIV counselling and testing campaign launched by the government in April this year.

This campaign hopes to test 15 million South Africans by the end of June 2011, with the aim of providing 80% of infected citizens with anti-Aids drugs.

According to BBC News, South African President Jacob Zuma launched this campaign in order to “promote openness about AIDS and fight its perceptions and stigma.”

The government has also ensured that the testing of HIV is free to all South African citizens and available at all public clinics in South Africa.

This stigma attached to HIV/Aids that President Zuma talks about is the reason why many South Africans do not get tested.

Ashley Walford, a second-year student at UP, is just one of thousands of students in South Africa that have not been tested for HIV. “I have never been given reason to get tested. I have given blood before for other reasons and they would have picked it up had I had it.”

South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV in the world. The United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS) estimates that 5 700 000 South Africans were living with HIV in 2008.

This is the reason why HIV/Aids campaigns and surveys are so widespread across South Africa. Awareness about HIV/Aids, counselling and available treatments are provided by the government to eradicate the virus’ silent stigma.