Johannesburg - The universities of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Pretoria have revealed that they were in talks with the Gauteng Department of Health in a bid to roll out ARVs and the Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill. 

This follows a recent announcement at the Cape University of Technology (CPUT), where the university became the first in the Western Cape province to roll out ARVs on campus.  

In Gauteng, the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) did not respond to calls for comment, but the Wits, UJ and the University of Pretoria (Tuks) said they were in discussions with the provincial health department and the Higher Education AIDS (HEAIDS) programme.

At UJ, Rainny Nkhatho, the head of the Institutional Office for HIV & AIDS (IOHA) at the university, said the university clinic was suitable to provide ARVs, but was yet to be accredited by the department.  

With regard to provision of ARV and PrEP, the university’s clinic has to be accredited by the Department of Health (DoH) with regard to facilities and competence of nurses to issue medication. UJ is meeting all the requirements and is currently in ongoing discussions with DoH to start with distribution,” said Nkhatho.

She said the department had visited their clinic and confirmed it was suitable to provide Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART), but had yet to accredit the facility.

At Wits, spokesperson Refilwe Mabula confirmed discussions were ongoing between the health department, the university and the HEAIDS programme. 

“University clinics must first receive accreditation to dispense ARVs and rollout appropriate training of staff before introducing this as part of their health services,” she said.

At Tuks, spokesperson Thamie Mthembu applauded CPUT for becoming the first university in the Western Cape to provide ARVs on campus and said the move was a “progressive and enabling decision, towards the total eradication of the scourge of HIV/AIDS”.  

“In 1999 the University of Pretoria was the first university in South Africa to establish a dedicated HIV centre/unit, through the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G). This UP centre has since been described by UNAIDS and others as the “benchmark” that other institutions could model, in rolling out an HIV programme for students.  

“Unfortunately, UP cannot currently offer ARVs directly to students – nor can any other university in Gauteng – due to the Gauteng Department of Health’s very strict criteria and guidelines for the accreditation of ARV sites.  UP continues to engage with various stakeholders towards adjusting the policy position and expectations are that the changes in guidelines are likely to change in the short to medium term. Once this happens, then UP will be able to offer ARVs,” said Mthembu. 

TUT did not respond to e-mails and calls. 

The Sunday Independent