Students at higher and tertiary institutions are seen as constituting the high-risk group of people prone to HIV.
by Sunday News reporter |Image Credit-irinnews.org
MIDLANDS State University (MSU) has started dispensing life saving Anti-Retroviral (ARVs) to needy students after realising that there was a big population of students living with HIV who needed to access the drugs.
The Gweru headquartered institution became the first among the country’s universities to implement the programme although it will be spread to other learning institutions. Students at higher and tertiary institutions are seen as constituting the high-risk group of people prone to HIV. However, issues to do with stigma and discrimination make it difficult for students to access ARVs at their respective institutions.
Speaking to journalists at a media training workshop on HIV and Aids in Macheke, National Aids Council monitoring and evaluating director Mr Amon Mpofu, said research had already shown that there was a significant number of students who were already in need of the drugs at the highly populated institution.
“We are giving ARVs at MSU and this is the first institution in the country that is doing this. We started this programme because we realised there was a high student population that was in need of the drugs so we set up a site on campus,” said Mr Mpofu.
NAC operations director Mr Raymond Yekeye added that they have discovered that MSU was among the institutions with high numbers of people living with HIV.
“Midlands has accelerated its ARV sites and we approved that they set up a site at MSU. We are only doing this at MSU so far because it is the only tertiary institution that has high volumes of people who need the drugs compared to say smaller institutions like Masvingo Polytechnic but with time we will open sites at other institutions,” he said.
MSU has the largest student enrolment in the country. MSU has about 23 000 students and would be adding another 5 000 as they have opened a new Mining and Engineering campus in Zvishavane.
A research recently conducted by NAC revealed that higher and tertiary education institutions had the highest number of new HIV infections in the country. NAC has introduced the training of HIV and Aids focal persons in tertiary institutions to provide technical guidance to students, particularly those in their first year to ensure that tertiary institutions provide a comprehensive programme to raise awareness among students on sexual reproduction.
Mr Yekeye said there was also a need for teachers at primary and secondary schools to be trained on HIV and Aids issues as they deal with pupils who are living with the virus.
He said the monitoring and evaluation department will soon train teachers on the virus and how to deal with pupils who are HIV positive.