Preventative drug given a cautious nod

The Higher Education and Training HIV/ AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) welcomes the announcement by the Department of Health that the HIV prevention drug, Truvada has been approved.

Supported by the Department of Higher Education and Training, the First Things First programme aims to encourage young people to make health a priority of every young South African and to prevent HIV, TB and STI infections by providing education, testing and screening at no cost at the door steps of all young people in the post school sector in order to promote overall general health and wellness.

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Director of HEAIDS said; “We strongly believe that when people educate themselves about HIV/AIDS, it is the first step in winning the fight. We support the government in its efforts to fight this epidemic and the provision of the prevention drug is a step in the right direction. The drug is a welcome addition to the existing prevention arsenal and we strongly advocate for a combination prevention approach which also emphasises the importance of education.”

First Things First is a national collaboration that is devoted to promoting education and awareness of HIV and other related health and social factors that set back progress of young people. Championed by the Department of Higher Education and Training, HEAIDS ensures that information and access to products such as condoms and services for testing, prevention and treatment are available within the higher education and training sector.

Dr Ahluwalia further cautioned against the isolated use of the drug as a preventive measure to contracting HIV/AIDS. “The provision of Truvada must be used as an additional measure to fighting the infection of the disease. The public needs to get as much information as possible prior to using the drug. I must also stress that those taking the drug need to be HIV negative, therefore testing and knowing your status remains crucial.”

Evidence has revealed that students are in a high-risk group with regard to contracting HIV, STIs and TB – and need accessible and relevant programmes to boost HIV prevention and improve health and wellness more holistically.

“The provision of the drug enables us to better address the complexities of the post-schooling sector and with the Department of Higher Education and Training, implement solutions that allow us to produce high-quality competent graduates and artisans who can carry on South Africa’s social and economic transformation into the future,” said Dr Ahluwalia.

This year, the higher education and training sector recorded significant achievements and milestones in addressing HIV, TB, STIs and other health imperatives: some 150 000 students tested for HIV and were screened for STIs and TB; 2-million students across 429 teaching and training campuses were exposed to seven targeted HEAIDS programmes: which include HIV, TB, STI testing and screening; women’s health empowerment; men’s health; LGBTI/MSM; Future Beats youth development; alcohol and drugs prevention as well as health curriculum strengthening.