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HIV-Aids tests taken to varsities

A PROGRAMME to ensure that university students are aware of their sexual health has been launched in Johannesburg

Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi launched the campaign - First Things First - at the University of the Witwatersrand's Medical School. It is aimed at testing first year students around the country for HIV.

The service will be offered on all university campuses nationwide.

Motsoaledi said: "By knowing their status, then we will know what we are dealing with. By targeting students we will be able to make positive changes in society.

"Through this campaign students will know their status and they will be responsible for their behaviour and that of their peers.

"South Africa has one of the most severe HIV and Aids epidemics in the world, with an estimated 5,7million people living with the virus. We chose to reach out to students as they are our future leaders who can enable positive change in society."

Students will be provided with free testing and counselling and a 30-minute DVD that portrays stories in a student context. The DVD will be shown before the counselling and testing process and all students will receive copies.

Val Beaumont, Innovative Medicines chief executive, said: "This is the most ambitious programme in the world. We hope to meet a large number of people by June. We hope that this will have lasting impact and ensure behavioural changes in students.

"We have trained 250 counsellors. Students that test and sign a pledge will be entered into a competition to win a Toyota Yaris."

The pledge states that: "We, the class of 2011, pledge to know our status, to stop the HIV-Aids stigma and to contribute to the struggle against HIV-Aids."

Yesterday, testing stations were set-up at the university. Students could take a 15-minute HIV test and receive counselling.

Student Lethabo Maimela said: "It is a great idea that they brought counselling and testing to the campus."

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