April 5, 2010
Anti-HIV stigma is so prevalent in South Africa that only a minority of post-secondary students feel they could count on friends' support if they became infected, according to a recent survey.
"In this climate of insecurity, we need to take note of the fact that students and staff feel institutional management and student leaders should take HIV and AIDS a lot more seriously," said Gail Andrews, program director of the Higher Education HIV/AIDS Program (HEAIDS).
The HEAIDS survey polled 23,000 students and staff members at 21 institutions. It calculated average HIV prevalence as 3.4 percent among students, 1.5 percent among academic staff, 4.4 percent among administrative staff and 9.9 percent among service workers. Students in Western Cape had the lowest figure (1.1 percent), while those in Eastern Cape had the highest (6.4 percent).
The latest report from the Human Sciences Research Council shows the HIV prevalence of the general population ages 15 to 49 is 16.9 percent.
"The HEAIDS study shows that no institution can afford to relax its efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and to offer care, support, and treatment to students and staff living with HIV," said Blade Nzimande, the minister of Higher Education and Training.