HEALTH FOCUS: HIV/AIDS testing turnout increases

The Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) says it has seen an increase of over 50% in the number of students coming to the centre to test for HIV/Aids in the last three years.

Acting head of CHWC Sister Maggie Moloi said that since January to mid-April this year alone 695 students have tested for HIV.

She added that this number is likely to increase due to voluntary testing programmes that CHWC is currently running across all Wits campuses.

“We have partnered with Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids Programme to encourage students to come test for HIV, more especially because April is World Health Month.
“We want to teach students to take responsibilities when they engage in sexual activities, to always protect themselves,” Moloi said.

Moloi added that the number of females that come to the centre to test for HIV is higher than that of males.

“We are taking the initiative to go to male residences to encourage them to visit our centre and test for HIV/Aids.”
Moloi said the CHWC is offering free male medical circumcisions to students as part of Operation Wise-Up.

“Research has shown that circumcised men stand less chance of contracting HIV compared to those who are not circumcised,” she said.

Lucky Tshabalala (21), third-year BA general, said that he has never tested for HIV before and he doesn’t think he will do it anytime soon.

“It’s scary. I don’t know what I would do if I found out that I have HIV. Maybe one day I’ll do the test but not anytime soon. I try to always use the condom but sometime when I am drunk I forget,” he said.
A nurse at CHWC, Sister Sylvia Mashaba, said that more still needs to be done to educate students to test for HIV/Aids regularly, especially if they are sexually active.

“Being HIV positive is not the end of the world. We still have students who think they can’t be infected with HIV … Anyone who engages in risky sexual behaviour can be infected by HIV,” Mashaba added.

Moloi said the CHWC is currently in the process of applying for accreditation to roll-out pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that reduces chances of contracting HIV, to students at Wits University.

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Marooned in my own island of depression

I WAS ONLY 16 years old when I was admitted to hospital because I was not coping with life. Two days later the doctor told me, “You have clinical depression.” I didn’t know what that meant but now, years later, I have learned a lot about my mental illness.

The diagnosis came after I lost my father, uncle and best friend within a year of each other.
I have been on prescription medication for more than a decade. I often feel like I’m losing my mind but I can’t always tell what the source of the feeling is. It’s hard to narrow it down and I never really know whether I’m just overreacting.

The thing is as a man, I have been raised and socialised to be strong and to never show emotions. For years I stopped telling people because they would either laugh at me or tell me to “stop stressing” and “just take things easy”. I would take things easy if only I knew how to. I’m getting better at asking for help and expressing my feelings. It is not always easy because sometimes I don’t know what it is that I need.

I often feel as though there are walls closing in on me from all sides. Those who know me will tell you that I laugh as if everything is fine. I engage in conversations. In other words, I seem perfectly ‘normal’. At any given time, even around people, I feel as far from company as any human being can be. It is on the shores of this lonely island of my own thoughts when I am most vulnerable, which, for me, is most of the time.

An hour before I originally wrote this piece, I was feeling great. I was in good spirits, having just gotten home from having breakfast with my partner. All of the sudden I felt wiped out. I gravitated towards my bed and began to tweet through the feelings because sometimes, that’s all I can master the energy or will to do.

Even after reading this, I know what I will hear: “May God help you”, “you are not alone” and other well-meaning words. I don’t know about God, but I know about strangers who have been kind to me. I know about my mother who prays for me. I know about my sister who would do anything for me. I know about my few friends who indulge my peculiarities. The thing is, I will still feel this way.

My studies have been my coping mechanism for the past couple of months. I also have a very beautiful dog that keeps me busy and makes me appreciate the little things in life.

We need to talk more openly, honestly, and more frequently about mental health. I know it’s not just me because whenever I write or tweet about it people share their stories and support me.

If you are going through what I am going through, seek help. We have organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) who will walk this journey with you and help you cope. I am following my own advice as I have just made an appointment with Sadag to get counselling and, hopefully, after a decade, I will get to rely less on medication.

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Wits Vuvuzela, http://witsvuvuzela.com/2018/04/06/slice-of-life-social-media-has-taken-over-my-life/, April, 2018