Alarming HIV infection rate
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Statistics show 1200 girls between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV every week in South Africa.
According to the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids Programme (HEAIDS), although the infection rate had dropped from 2000 per week three years ago, the figures still remained unacceptably high.
This data formed part of a presentation delivered by Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, of HEAIDS, at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on the second day of the 9th South African Aids Conference in Durban yesterday. The conference ends tomorrow.
HEAIDS is a government initiative that provides and supports HIV mitigation programmes to the country’s approximately 2 million students.
Ahluwalia said challenges in tertiary education institutions included that 14% of students engaged in transactional/intergenerational sex and that 41% of students had multiple sexual partners, increasing the rate of HIV infection.
Higher education was also “stigma prone”, he said, which would keep students from being tested.
But, he said, the same youthful population that created and maintained the #FeesMustFall movement could also be used for peer encouragement and education around HIV and Aids.
One such programme that encouraged engagement through dialogue, workshops, debates and exhibitions was First Things First.
The programme provides testing and screening services for HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) via mobile clinics.
Ahluwalia said campuses also had to deal with mental health issues among students, with suicide being the second leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 24 in higher education in 2012.
One study found that as many as 24.5% of South African students reported, “some form of suicidal ideation in the two weeks before they were interviewed”.
“Despite psychological distress being high among university students, evidence suggested that only one in six students received minimally adequate mental health treatment,” according to Ahluwalia.
Research had also shown that in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, 60% of students and 58% of TVET college staff abused alcohol on a regular basis - almost every month - on campus.
African News Agency -ANA