HEAIDS Peer education training: Creating change agents from one peer to another

This year, HEAIDS has kick-started its newly developed Peer Education Training programme for students and staff of the post schooling sector in a few universities and TVETS around the country.

This interactive and fun-filled training is geared towards developing peer mentors and educators who are a key resource for enhancing positive values and encouraging health-seeking behaviour. Their presence on campuses cultivates an enabling environment for interventions that address all issues related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

The first training session, which was attended by 30 individuals, took place at Sefako Makgatho University in Pretoria and one of the students who took part reflected on the personal benefits they gained from participating in it: “I have grown as an individual and realised that this training has challenged many of my beliefs around women and of many other males out there.”

Mr Alex Semba, the HEAIDS Programme Manager for University Support was one of the facilitators of the training and was encouraged by the positive outcome.

“It was an honour to have such impactful conversations with a group of engaging and socially aware young people. The training was planned to be very practical and involved calling for shared responsibility of action, addressing social norms in the campuses and communities where students come from in order to produce and nurture change agents,” said Mr. Semba.

The aim of the initiative is to provide on-campus education and services which empower women and men with the ability to make good lifestyle choices that will keep them healthy and productive in their academics.

The peer education model is linked to and strengthens HEAIDS’ core mandate which is education and is carried out through:  

  • Lectures;

  • Development of critical thinking;

  • Distributing materials;

  • Dialogues;

  • Drama;

  • Advocacy;

  • Counselling;

  • Making referrals to services;

  • Providing support.

The belief that peer education is effective in transforming the health and wellness of students and staff is based on a number of behavioural theories which carry the notion that  people are able to make positive changes based on  how their close, trusted peers respond to the same stimulus be it risks or information.

The training is conducted through a series of sessions that address the following:

  • Developing the culture of screening and testing through the First Things First programme;

  • Empowerment of men and women for health and wellness;

  • Alcohol & substance abuse prevention;

  • Challenges specific to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) community.

The training often requires trainees to critically reflect on complex issues like sexual and gender based violence which can have negative implications on physical and mental health.

Trainings have also begun at several TVETs in Gauteng including Westcol Krugersdorp West, Westcol Krugersdorp Central and Ekurhuleni East College KwaThema.