New students trained in Facilitating Basic HIV and Gender discourse among peers

The Office for Institutional HIV Co-ordination (OIHC), at Stellenbosch University (SU), introduced a new short course to students, namely Basic HIV and Gender Facilitation. The free training program took place over two weekends in August 2010, and the Maties who were selected for the 32 hour training are now preparing to confront the issues of HIV/Aids on campus and in greater Stellenbosch district.

The goals behind this training are that students act as an informal source of information on HIV/Aids on campus, and any other circles of influence they operate in. It also aims to influence unsupportive attitudes and promote responsible behaviour. In essence, empowering students to serve as a support structure for students in our community.  Students from SU Business School, Health Science, Engineering, Economics, Social Science, Natural Science, Law, Education and Theology Faculties attended the course.

The students who enrolled were equally enthusiastic about the new short course. A student commented: “This course opened my eyes and made me realize that change starts with me. My expectations have even been exceeded.” Another reflected: “I experienced the course as intellectually and emotionally stimulating, and loved the activities which encouraged us to think critically and ‘forced’ us to listen to others’ opinions”.

The course leader, Jaco Brink (Co-ordinator: HIV Prevention Programmes), was asked how he experienced the recent course, and new group of student volunteers; “The group has the ability to bring new energy and enthusiasm to a programme that seems to expand despite the notion that Aids fatigue is on the rise”. Brink continued; “we’ve got a large, enthusiastic new group of volunteers to swell the ranks of the existing Peer2Peer Education project. The potential to change attitudes and really confront HIV/Aids issues on our campus is immeasurable”.

Students from this group could then apply to be selected as Peer2Peer Educators for 2010/2011. The Peer Educators will take part in various community interaction projects in and around campus. These include: mass HIV testing campaigns, marketing local HIV testing services, condom distribution, a project exploring student attitudes regarding gender, race, HIV and sexual orientation, and projects partnering with various NGO’s, such as Legacy, Vision V, Vision K, !Khwa ttu San Cultural Centre and @heart.

As part of a Service Learning agreement with the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, a number of third year Sociology students were placed with the OIHC and participated in the short course. These service learning students will now play an important part in Peer 2 Peer Education initiatives until the end of 2010.

Peer2Peer Education, community interaction and various short courses form part of the OIHC strategy to address HIV related issues on campus and to move towards a campus free of new HIV infections, by 2012. This vision emphasises prevention as a priority strategy; collaboration between various disciplines; participation of both students and staff; and the positioning of the University as a leader in the field of HIV with a tangible impact on HIV-related challenges in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa.

The Basic HIV and Gender Facilitation short course will be offered twice annually and interested students from a variety of settings are encouraged to apply. For more information about HIV/Aids, the short course, Peer2Peer Education and other initiatives, contact Jaco Brink at the OIHC, based in the Industrial Psychology Building at (021) 808 3136, or via email: peered@sun.ac.za.