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Thursday, 03 March 2016 06:52

Thousands of youth test for HIV

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More than 175 000 young people tested for HIV in the year 2015, according to data from the First Things First programme.

These figures were announced during the activation of the Higher Education and Training HIV & Aids (HEAIDS) 2016 First Things First (HIV, STIs, TB) programme, in Kimberley.

Led by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana, the First Things First programme aims to develop and support HIV/TB/STI prevention initiatives and promote health and wellness across South Africa's public higher education institutions (HEIs), as well as Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

First Things First reaches across 429 campuses of the 50 public TVET colleges and 26 universities to benefit about two million students.

During the kick off of the programme, thousands of students from the Northern Cape Urban TVET College, including other higher education and training institutions in the Northern Cape, underwent HIV testing and were screened for STIs and TB.

The students also received information, counselling, referrals for treatment and the entire package of health and support services that are covered by the HEAIDS First Things First programme.

Condoms were distributed, screening for non-communicable diseases was conducted and sexual reproductive health advice was given.

According to the 2012 HSRC survey, HIV prevalence in the Northern Cape was estimated to be 7.4%, a markedly lower level of infection compared to the national average of 12.2%.

The survey noted that alcohol and drug abuse are among the challenges faced by youth in the Northern Cape.

Director of HEAIDS Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia said that First Things First, now in its sixth successful year, speaks to the first priority of every young South African to look after their health and wellbeing.

Speaking at the event, Deputy Minister Manana said healthy and productive graduates are the cornerstone of a healthy economy. He said universities and colleges provide the ideal environment to improve students’ knowledge about HIV, STIs and TB and other health conditions.

“We each have one responsibility above all others to look after ourselves. The higher education and training sector is in a unique position to lead a movement that achieves this from the inside, as well as through links with all other stakeholders that provide health services in South Africa.

“The youth in these colleges are our future leaders and we can guide them to make the right choices. Ultimately their health is in their hands,” said Deputy Minister Manana.