The Higher Education and Training AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) recently hosted an inaugural youth conference as a forerunner to the biannual South African AIDS Conference.
Held in response to a plea by young people to have their voices heard about the challenges they face, the HEAIDS conference was attended by 2 500 young people from both school and tertiary sectors across South Africa.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price, chair of the HEAIDS board, hosted a panel discussion during the conference, and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South African minister of health, gave the keynote address.
Dr Price reiterated the need for institutions of learning to incorporate in their core teaching principles the reframing of gender-based norms, which assist young people in building healthy relationships.
It is worth noting the University of Cape Town's own programme in 2015, which introduced engagement sessions with women on campus about intimate partner violence. Stella Musungu, coordinator of the Agents of Change Education (ACES) peer programme, trained the peer educators in gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and bystander interventions.
After the training, the peer educators conducted GBV workshops in the residences, which were attended by 300 students. Intimate partner violence was discussed and the students brainstormed how such violence could be prevented. They specifically deliberated about how they could empower one another to respond appropriately in violent situations and what steps to follow if assaulted.
Dr Price said that in the future more training will be conducted and dialogues initiated to respond to intimate partner violence on UCT’s campuses.
Essential care and support
In his keynote address Dr Motsoaledi highlighted the need to ensure that young women (a continued high-risk population group) receive essential care and support to assist in the decrease of HIV infection. He referenced the current issues facing young women and in particular the increase in reported intimate partner violence and the potential risk for HIV infection.
In response to this, the minister highlighted the recently launched Department of Health She Conquers campaign, which focuses on five key objectives:
Twenty districts in seven provinces in South Africa which have the highest HIV prevalence for young women between the ages of 15 and 24 have been identified to receive the initial round of implementation, which is currently underway.
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