Witsies are not allowed to test for HIV during the exam period, according to a policy enforced by The Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (WCHC).

WCHC offers an HIV testing service to Wits students and staff throughout the year – except during exam time. Sister Maggie Moloi of WCHC said the policy is in line with the university. This policy states: “A student may not not use his/her HIV status as the sole reason for failing to perform work.” Moloi said: “We don’t want to add more stress than they can handle.”

Wits students approached by Wits Vuvuzela were generally against the policy. Nonkululeko Mayathula, 1st year BA, said: “I think it [the policy] is kind of loose in a way because it doesn’t make sense in terms of a person getting early detection and medication.”

She believed it was up to each student to make the decision to get tested whenever they saw fit. “I don’t think it’s up to the institution to say: this is when you can get tested and this is when you can’t get tested.”

Another student, who asked not to be named, said the policy should be reconsidered. “It’s a big thing, especially in South Africa, and early detection is important.”

A psychology Masters student, who cannot be named for professional reasons, explained that people reacted differently to trauma or to news that could induce trauma.

“People have something we call the ego-strength and this is the ability for them to deal with different experiences.”

The student said people did not always react immediately to situations. “It’s a process.” She said students should be able to choose when to get tested, since people reacted differently to situations based on their history.
People had different defence mechanisms and, while some might choose to “sweep it under the carpet and go on”, others were overwhelmed and struggled to continue functioning. “It might break them completely.”

Many people were able to switch off their emotions and chose to deal with things cognitively. In the short term, this could help them cope with school stress and the news of their HIV status. But in the long term, this ability was not good because it affected them psychologically.

Lauren Borchers, 1st year BSc, said there should be no distinction between the exam period and any other time of the year. Testing during exams should be allowed.
“The thought that you might be positive [while being unable to get tested] could put more stress than the exam stress,” she said.

Not all students agree, however Anthony Shumba, 3rd year BCom Finance and Management, said the policy is reasonable one. “If a student finds out he or she is HIV positive they could fail and their lives could fall apart because of
their status.”