Commemorating World AIDS Day
The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s HIV/AIDS Programme commemorated World AIDS Day during an event held at the UKZN’s Edition of SA Voices Museum on the Howard College campus.
Under the theme Know Your Status, the event brought together University stakeholders and communities in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
World AIDS Day is a national celebration that commemorates those who have lost their lives to the disease and to support those infected and affected by the pandemic.
The event also marks a milestone of the institutional response to HIV/AIDS especially in light of the new national strategies. The University’s HIV/AIDS Programme continues to support the UNAIDS 909090 strategy.
UKZN’s HIV/AIDS Programme co-ordinator, Ms Nomonde Magantolo, said the purpose of the event is to update the University stakeholders of the latest developments around HIV/AIDS. The event is also held to notify staff and students of the latest services provided by the clinic and to speak to the University community to find out about the challenges they often face when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
‘We are all affected by HIV,’ said Magantolo adding that the Programme’s role is to ensure that those students who are positive lead a positive life and graduate alive and those who are negative stay negative.
To offer convenience for staff and students who are on chronic medications, she announced that in 2019, UKZN will be a pick up point for chronic medications. Magantolo added that the Durban campus clinics will also be able to roll out ARV’s on campus rather than students having to travel to the nearest clinics.
Magantolo said this year the Programme tested 12 000 people and more than 90% of those who tested are on ARV’s. She urged more staff and students to utilise the facilities at the clinics and test regularly.
HIV/AIDS activist, Ms Monica Nyawo, said the biggest challenge that hinders people from getting the necessary help they need is the stigma around the pandemic. She encouraged those infected and affected by the disease to speak to someone, as sometimes talking heals.
Nyawo urged the staff at the campus clinics to love and support the students, and for the Programme to ensure that students are part of similar future discussions as HIV/AIDS also involves young people.
In a panel discussion, some of the challenges raised in trying to prevent new infections included students not using protection when they engage in sexual intercourse for the first time; the blessers syndrome where students are dating older men for financial rewards; and how students do not seek help at the fear of being judged.
The panel also highlighted the increased number of students born with HIV entering the University. The HIV/AIDS Programme reassured the audience that the University fully supports those students.
Magantolo invited staff and students to join hands in transforming UKZN to be able to deal with all HIV/AIDS health issues on campus.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu
Photographs: Andile Ndlovu