UCT marks AIDS Day with a ribbon

02 December 2011 | Story by Newsroom

World AIDS DayTie a ribbon: Winsheena Hess (right) purchases her World AIDS Day ribbon from Blanche Claasen-Hoskins (far left) and Susan Williams.

UCT students and staff proudly hooked on specially beaded AIDS ribbons to mark World AIDS Day on 1 December.

But the UCT community is going beyond just that gesture. Staff and students have been urged to contribute toys and children's books, which will be then donated to the Nazareth House and Fikelela Children's Centre. These are two of the many organisations that have responded appropriately to the HIV pandemic for many years, caring for and supporting children who are both affected and infected.

The UCT initiative is a joint programme between the Human Resource Department (HR) and the HIV/AIDS Institutional Co-ordination Unit, or HAICU, explains HR's Blanche Claasen-Hoskins . About 1 000 ribbons have been ordered from Wola Nani, an NGO that runs programmes to help HIV-positive people cope with the emotional and financial strains of HIV/AIDS.

According to Claasen-Hoskins, the purpose of the ribbon and toy campaigns is to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, support people affected and infected, and to demonstrate UCT's commitment to social responsiveness.

She noted that the response from staff and students has been "encouraging". People have made a number of HIV/AIDS-related queries and the ribbons have sold well.

Among those who donned a ribbon was HR's own Bernadette Valentine, who believes that the initiative teaches people more about HIV/AIDS, and motivates them to motivate others.

"It helps us to grow, and to show others that we care," Valentine says.

Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Crain Soudien noted that the campaign encourages UCT members to recommit to building AIDS-competent communities, including within universities.

"By wearing the ribbon, you will be expressing your commitment to addressing HIV and AIDS through sharing HIV-prevention knowledge and skills, knowing your HIV status, accessing appropriate resources for HIV treatment, and de-stigmatising HIV and AIDS in our community."

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