HEAIDS First things First campaign visits Alexandra

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Honourable Mduduzi Manana today visited the Johannesburg Central TVET College (Alexandra Campus) for the “first things first” HIV/AIDS and TB campaign.

Now in its fourth year, the annual First Things First campaign encourages students at tertiary institutions – and especially incoming first year students – to take responsibility for knowing their HIV status.

 “The purpose of this campaign is to contribute to the National Strategic Plan which seeks to eradicate the scourge of HIV/AIDS. It focuses on testing as well as pre and post-testing counselling and TB screening amongst other things in the post school learning institutions. This knowledge is a cornerstone for proactively managing one’s health, because once people know their status, they can appreciate the benefits of prevention and timely access to treatment;” said Deputy Minister Manana.

 A key programme of the Higher Education and Training HIV/ AIDS Programme (HEAIDS), First Things First is a public-private initiative implemented in partnership with a number of entities including the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).

Earlier in the day, the Deputy Minister had a walkabout around the campus encouraging students who were taking their HIV tests and TB screening. "We have already seen an increase in the lifespan of South Africans which is a direct result of people who are HIV positive getting treatment. In addition, having large numbers of people who are HIV positive and on treatment and virally suppressed, helps to decrease new infections;" continued the Deputy Minister. 

 Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the Director of HEAIDS, said: "The extension of our mandate to support the development of a programmatic response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic at TVET colleges is a milestone achievement. Through the involvement of TVETs, the sector's HIV prevention, care and treatment programme is extended to the almost 2 000 000 young people who study at TVETs and university campuses”.

 “It has been observed that TVET colleges are community based colleges and mostly confined in townships and rural areas. Through our First things First campaign and the recently launched Women health Programme we have seen a huge community participation in all our activations and launches towards collective response. Community heads, farm workers, chiefs, high schools and at times unions join with us during these activations. Most of the students within the TVETs are from their own communities and it helps spread our communication/mobilisation for HIV/TB/STI to communities much faster. Similarly it has been evident in the form of our peer educators who have been accepted to educate nearby communities much faster than other members considering that they are knowledge workers, belong to their own communities and understand issues faster; concluded Dr Ahluwalia.

 The Deputy Minister also signed the pledge wall assuring his support for this programme. He then invited the students to do the same and take care of their health.