Higher education alarming HIV stats

Monday, March 29, 2010

Johannesburg - The recently released results of the Higher Education HIV and AIDS Programmes (HEAIDS) survey show that the HIV prevalence rate among administrative staff stands at 4. 4 percent whilst 9.9 percent of service workers are HIV positive.

The survey, conducted on 21 of the 23 higher institutions in the country, established that the national prevalence rate among students is 3.4 percent.

The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal emerged as the regions with the highest prevalence, while Western Cape has the lowest figures. Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and the Free State occupy the middle ground.

Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, said one of the clearest implications of the survey is the need to strengthen workplace HIV and AIDS programmes at institutions.

"We have an obligation as a sector to act on these results and to be proactive in our messages around HIV and AIDS, the way in which the epidemic is dealt with in the curriculum, the comprehensiveness of our HIV services and the structuring of workplace programmes in particular," Nzimande said.

Nzimande challenged the sector to provide the nation with working solutions to curb the spread of the virus, both clinically and socially.

"The sector has a vital responsibility in providing intellectual leadership and to produce well informed and empowered individuals in communities as well as a country as a whole," he said.

He stressed the importance of implementing a co-ordinated, comprehensive and integrated response to HIV and AIDS among higher education institutions including further education and training (FET) colleges and the skills sector.

HEAIDS Programme Director, Dr Gail Andrews, said the study represents major achievements and gives a better understanding of the behavioural risk.

"There's still a lot of work to be done and how best to reduce the risk of infection. We now have a solid base of information for the future on how to respond to HIV in higher education," Andrews said.