Higher Education AIDS programme implementation in tertiary institutions: progress report

Higher Education, Science and Technology

02 September 2015
Chairperson: Ms Y Phosa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Country Director and Head of the HEAIDS Programme presented a progress report on the implementation of the HEAIDS Programme in the post-school education and training sector. The HEAIDS Programme is a national initiative to develop and support the HIV/TB/STI mitigation and general health and wellness among South Africa’s public higher education institutions (HEIs) and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. To date, there are seven ongoing projects aimed at mitigating the scourge that is HIV/AIDS:
- First Things First (FTF) HIV Counseling and Testing Campaign
- Men's & Women's health programme
- Curriculum development and integration
- MSM and LGBTI programme
- Drug and Alcohol prevention programme
- Youth development and HIV prevention campus radio programme.

Consequently, the HEAIDS Programme has gained recognition amongst the higher education and training sector, NGOs, and other government departments. The Country Director said that the outcomes and outputs for HEAIDS interventions and studies/publications are impressive; offering a total coverage in all nine provinces and 373 campuses. Currently the Department is in the process of sourcing additional funding to sustain the programme as it not only safeguards the health of our students but also ensures that they live a productive and responsible life.

Members questions included: Where do students go for their testing? Do they go to the Health Centre on campus or does the Programme allocate a specific room? Does the Programme gives support to local health providers? How  does the testing takes place; is it during a specific time of the year or can the students go whenever they want? How does the Programme approaches treatment in case a student tests positive? How far does the Programme goes in terms of contraception? Has there been a reduction in the number of students testing positive after having implemented the FTF Programme?  Is the radio programme contributing to students’ enlightenment?  What strategy is the Programme planning to implement to gather more funds? What is the website and the organogram for the organisation?

The Country Director replied to all the questions; however, the Committee was not satisfied with the answer about future funding, as a concrete funding strategy had not been submitted. The Chairperson thanked the Department for the development of the project and called on the HEAIDS Programme to submit the funding strategy/ideas to ensure the continuity of the programme. The HEAIDS team was congratulated for the Best Performance Award in Africa and asked to keep working with the same enthusiasm.

Meeting report

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Country Director and Head of the HEAIDS Programme, briefed the Committee on the progress report of the programme. The HEAIDS Programme is a national initiative to develop and support the HIV/TB/STI mitigation and general health and wellness among South Africa’s public higher education institutions (HEIs) and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. The programme aims to build capacity and human resource capabilities for a comprehensive and effective institutional HIV response that embodies the health and wellness dimensions of the pandemics. Till the date, there are seven ongoing projects aimed at mitigating the scourge that is HIV/AIDS:

- First Things First (FTF) HIV Counseling and Testing Campaign:
The programme accounts for 96% of the total HIV, TB, STIs testing in the higher education and training sector. It also covers 25% of first time testers with the opportunity to know their status so that they are able to seek proper care and support if they test positive for HIV, TB, STIs. FTF is one of the programmes that brings together different government departments, civil societies, development partners and private sector funders to work collectively.

The FTF programme has shown that incorporating HIV, in the same way as any other chronic disease, within the Wellness component service provision helps with removing the stigma attached to the disease and results in increased HIV testing among young people. The number of students tested for HIV/TB/STI are: 2011 à 22, 093 ; 2012 à 66,497 ; 2013 à 41, 373 ; 2014 à 97, 174 ; 2015 à over 100, 000

- Men's & Women's health programme:
The programme aims to educate both men and women in areas of sexual health, sexuality, HIV prevention, medical male circumcision, contraception, rape and gender based violence at institutional facilities or off campus by trained health professionals, with pre-counseling and proper follow up care. The programme also promotes a healthy sex life that includes being faithful to a single partner, avoiding alcohol abuse, and wearing condoms.

- Curriculum development and integration:
Created to capacitate academic staff across disciplines to appropriately integrate and address HIV/AIDS in their curricula.

- MSM and LGBTI programme:
This programme was created to promote an enabling environment and access to appropriate HIV treatment, care and prevention services for Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Inter-sexed (LGBTI) persons.

- Drug and Alcohol prevention programme:
This programme was created to train academic staff to reach every student on campus to properly address drug and alcohol problems and prevention mechanisms.

- Youth development and HIV prevention campus radio programme:
This programme is supported by the German government to capacitate media and develop programmes around HIV and AIDS and related topics like gender violence, substance abuse, human rights and social justice to engage with the youth in an open weekly space.

Consequently, the HEAIDS Programme has gained recognition amongst the higher education and training sector, NGOs, and other government departments. The Country Director said that the outcomes and outputs for HEAIDS interventions and studies/publications are impressive; offering a total coverage in all nine provinces and 373 campuses. Currently the Department is in the process of sourcing additional funding to sustain the programme as it not only safeguards the health of our students but also ensures that they live a productive and responsible life.

Discussion
Mr C Kekana (ANC) wanted to know specifically where students go for their testing. Do they go to the Health Centre or does the Programme allocate a specific room? Does the Programme give support to local health providers?

Mr Y Cassim (DA) asked how the testing takes place; is it during a specific time of the year or can the students go whenever they want? How does the Programme approach treatment in case a student tests positive  as many of them rely on government facilities? How far does the Programme go in terms of contraception?

Mr C Msimang (IFP) wanted to know if there has been a reduction in the number of students testing positive after implementing the FTF Programme?  Is the radio programme contributing to the students’ enlightenment? 

Ms B Bozzoli (DA) had a concern about the funding of the Programme and asked  about the strategy that the Programme is planning to implement to gather more funds. 

Mr M Mbatha (EFF) commented on the effectiveness of the Programme strategy – are we reaching more students?  He asked for the web page of the Programme and its organogram.  

Dr Ahluwalia replied that the Programme has a committee on every campus with partner-members of local NGOs and the Department of Health as they cannot take care of all the testing. However, more partners are needed so that more testing can take place. In terms of how the testing is done on the ground, HEAIDS notifies the campus about the testing at least two months in advance so that it can fit the event into its  academic calendar and also help spread the word among the students. The testing is done twice a year for five consecutive days. The results are immediate. In case of a positive test, the student is immediately referred to the nearest Department of Health. To date, 72 campuses have a Health Centre or Campus Clinic. In regards to the contraception programme, HEAIDS provides a variety of dual contraception - it is up to the student to choose. In terms of a reduction in the number of students testing positive, Dr Ahluwalia said that there is a trend of decline. However, they cannot generalise about the reason for this as more research needs to be done and more funding is needed to expand the programme. On the radio programme, he explained that right now they have a live show three times a week for 30 minutes in which the broadcasters talk about HIV/AIDS, contraception, and other relevant topics for youth, all in an attempt to educate and promote a healthier sexual life. The organogram of the organisation was not in the presentation as they are a small team of only 20 people, but it can be found on their website www.heaids.org.za as well as all the information about the Programme.

In terms of the funding, Dr Ahluwalia could not give exact figures as funding is drastically decreasing. As an example, Global Fund funding for 2015 is R10,5 million but for 2016 it is R2,44 million. Nonetheless, he was positive about finding future funding although he could not expand on the strategy to be used.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation and for the development of the project. He called on Dr Ahluwalia and the financial section to be concrete and submit the funding strategy/ideas in order to ensure the continuity of the programme. He congratulated the HEAIDS team for the Best Performance Award in Africa and asked them to keep on working with the same enthusiasm.

The committee minutes of 25 August were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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