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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Wits student arrested for rape

A former Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) sub-committee member will remain in custody at the Hillbrow Police Station following his arrest on a charge of rape on Tuesday, April 10.

The student was arrested following the alleged rape of a fellow Wits student at the Junction residence in Parktown before the Easter break.

Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo from the Hillbrow Police Station confirmed the alleged perpetrator’s arrest. “I can confirm that the suspect was arrested at the Wits campus on a charge of rape,” Zondo said.

Zondo told Wits Vuvuzela that the suspect has since appeared at the Johannesburg Magistrates Court and is set to make a second court appearance. “His second court appearance will be on the 18th of April for bail application,” he said.

Wits Gender Equity Office (GEO) confirmed that the incident had been reported to their office on the same day as the arrest and that they had met with the victim the following day.

“The victim is not a resident at Junction.  The GEO is in touch with her daily and she is receiving counselling support. The GEO is currently supporting the preparation of her case within the University,” said Crystal Dicks, Director of GEO.

Dicks told Wits Vuvuzela that although the perpetrator remains a student at the university, he has been suspended from his residence where he previously served as a house committee member.

“The accused is currently suspended from Junction residence.  A suspension order from the University has been drafted but has not been served as the accused is currently in police custody,” she said.

Wits SRC president, Orediretse Masebe, said that his organisation is unable to comment on the matter and will release an official statement about the arrest in the coming days.

“This is a sensitive issue involving the safety and well-being of a student. It is important that the SRC is not careless with confidential information,” he said.

Chairperson of the Wits Junction House Committee Nombulelo Zulu has distanced the committee from the perpetrator’s alleged actions.

“We will continue to support the survivor and everyone who is interested in seeing this through and seeing justice being served,” she said.

Zulu told Wits Vuvuzela that the committee understood the severity of the accusations against the suspect and hopes it will not ruin the image of the residence.

“We take the allegations against him very seriously because we understand the impact it has, not only on the Wits community but on the Wits Junction community.”

“It is a co-ed residence so we will not allow perpetrators to live comfortably at the Wits Junction, we will take action against any other perpetrator,” she added.