Student Women Urged: “Protect Yourself, Strengthen Yourself”

On 24 October 2014 at Esayidi TVET College: Enyenyezi Campus, close to 1000 students, staff and KwaZulu-Natal provincial stakeholders marked the launch of a dedicated HEAIDS-First Things First campaign.

 Supported strongly by the provincial Health Department and Higher Education and Training sectors, First Things First aims to eradicate and prevent HIV, TB and STI contraction in the student community.

 The need for such an initiative is evident from the fact that over half of the world’s young population infected with HIV lives in the Eastern and Southern Africa. In this region, 2.7 million people aged 15-24 are at a high risk of becoming infected with HIV. And most are women.

 These efforts are also wealthily supported by the government where the Honourable Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana, has expressed the significance of programmes such as the First Things First campaign in addressing the spread of HIV and other STIs.

 “Yet, the programme’s significance and benefits will stretch beyond the higher education and training sector. Our young women are our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues. South Africa can only prosper socially and economically if we enable young women to draw on their inner strength and nurture power and self-confidence.

 “Our sector is in a unique position to lead a movement that achieves this from the inside, as well as through links with all other spheres of South Africa,” said Mduduzi Manana, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training during the campaign.

 This is why HEAIDS conducts robust dialogues and activates campaigns across the 400 higher education and training South African campuses it operates in.

 The organisation is very passionate about mobilising women in every South African community to educate each other about health and other issues plaguing their communities.

 “I am aiming to produce 20 000 foot soldiers, girls, women in this country who can go into communities, schools, farms and talk to other women … From them I am going to be able to expose to the entire South African population [to these issues],” said HEAIDS director, Ramneek Ahluwalia.

 However, Ahluwalia emphasised that his organisation’s priority was the community of 2 million students in higher education institutions that need guidance. He added that programmes about family planning, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and other illnesses prevalent in the female population were of great focus.

 “The programme’s significance and benefits will stretch beyond the higher education and training sector,” concludes Dr Ahluwalia.