Wits students initiate two day health fair


Health fair: Wits students visit health stations in numbers. Photo:           Londell Phumi Ramalepe

Wits health science students hosted a two day health fair on July 20 and 21 at Solomon Mahlangu House Concourse to raise awareness about health issues faced by students.

The students offered a number of healthcare checks including dentistry, dermatology, eye testing and physiotherapy.

The event which was hosted by Jesus Christ To All Languages (JTL) society together with the Wits Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) also provided services related to specific men’s and women’s health issues along with dietary and chronic conditions.

Participants were also able to donate blood and make use of aerobic and resistance training stalls.

Final year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery student, and leader of the JTL society, Hennah Mungure, said that convenience plays a major role in people checking up on their well-being. The 24-year-old told Wits Vuvuzela, “Students have many questions about health issues but do not necessarily go to the doctor to find out or get answers.”

The acting head nurse of CHWC, Sister Maggie Moloi, told Wits Vuvuzela that male healthcare was one of the priorities at the fair. The CHWC have partnered with Wise Up, an operation which focuses on Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC).

Dr Lubwana J. Kigozi from the VMMC project, who was also present at the fair, said that the aim of his organisation is to ensure that males are given knowledge about their medical healthcare so that they can voluntarily go for circumcision which is shown to reduce the “risks of acquiring HIV by 60%,” in males.

The high cost of health is one of the factors preventing students from getting regular health checks. “The only option left for students is to go to the public sector which can be a tedious process because you cannot wait an entire day when suffering from sinusitis,” said Mungure.

“Some of us do not have enough money to go to campus health, so this fair makes it easier,” said Dimakatso Hlahlu, a Wits second year geology student.

“I wouldn’t necessarily go to the doctor to check up on my health because the medical aid does not pay the full amount and I would have to top up,” said Yenzokuhle Hleta, a second year Wits mechanical engineering student.

Moloi added that ignorance also prevents students from thinking about their health. “Students tell themselves that they are only here to study and don’t have to look after their health. In the long run they end up with high blood pressure with the stress they get from studies,” Moloi said.


No testing for HIV/AIDS during varsity exams

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.”