Makerere University formulating HIV/AIDS policy to safeguard students

May 14, 2024

Prof. Nawangwe said the policy will guide students on where to go for support. Through the same policy, teachers, administrative and support staff will be guided on how to handle students during emergencies, as well as those grappling with mental health issues.

Makerere University formulating HIV/AIDS policy to safeguard students

Agnes Kyotalengerire
Journalist @New Vision


Makerere University is in the process of drafting a policy on how to protect students against acquiring HIV, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, has said.

Speaking to New Vision, Prof. Nawangwe said the policy will guide students on where to go for support. Through the same policy, teachers, administrative and support staff will be guided on how to handle students during emergencies, as well as those grappling with mental health issues.

“Once the parents bring their children here, they should be comfortable that they are well taken care of just like they do at home,” he said

The development comes in handy as students plan to report for their first academic year in various universities and institutions of higher learning.

For a young person straight from secondary school and away from the controlled home environment, the idea of joining university and getting a room of their own comes with the epitome of liberty. With such free space, students engage in whatever pleases them.

However, if that freedom is not properly managed, students’ lives and their career dreams, not to mention their future may be ruined, said Nawangwe.

What is being done

Prof. Nawangwe further noted that the university has got a good strategy to help students to resist peer pressure which may mislead them, consequently resulting into getting infections including HIV.

For those already infected, there are already mechanisms in place to support them. For example, the University hospital offers them the necessary support and medication. Additionally, the university has a vibrant counselling unit with qualified people to handle students.

“The students we receive nowadays are very young compared to the mature ones we received about 30 years ago. So we must handle them in a proper way through proper parenting, counselling and providing the necessary support,” he said.

What Kyambogo University is doing

Senior medical officer at Kyambogo University Dr Charles Mukisa said the HIV/AIDS Interventions at the University are guided by the HIV/AIDS policy which has pillars of prevention, treatment care and support.

According to Dr Mukisa, under the prevention arm, students who are joining in addition to those already existing, are given health education and sensitization to help change their knowledge, attitude and practices to avoid risky sexual behaviour in the bid to create change.

He said these prevention messages are spread through peer-to-peer talks. Peer educators who are fellow students are equipped with information and knowledge to pass on to fellow students in line with HIV prevention.

Additionally, behavioural change messages are passed on to students in both hard and soft copy focusing on HIV prevention, abstinence, being faithful, condom use and post-exposure prophylaxis for those who have been raped or gotten into risky sexual behaviour.

Students are screened at the medical centre or during community outreaches, and those found infected with HIV are enrolled into care and treatment. They are also monitored by a team of counsellors and health workers to ensure they are taking their medication, he notes. Those who graduate are linked up to health centres in the respective districts where they are going.

Students are continuously sensitized to avoid reinfection and those already sick to avoid transmitting, messages to change behaviour, attitude and practices.

In line with the HIV/AIDS prevention policy of the university, the students are given safe male circumcision services. The university medical centre also provides free youth-friendly services given that sometimes students tend not to open up.

Those who have been raped or exposed in various ways are given post-exposure prophylaxis, Dr Mukisa said

Mbarara University of Science and Technology

At Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) new students are supported through the institutional HIV /AIDS policy which is being implemented in its second phase, said Emmanuel Kyagaba. The policy also focuses on activities such as awareness campaign with information education communication materials which are distributed to the students.

In addition, the University conducts voluntary counselling and testing based on the memorandum of understanding the institution has with the AIDS Information Centre. He said officials from the AIDS Information Center usually conduct voluntary counselling and testing among students, and the response has been fairly good.

Peers services are offered by fellow students who undergo formal training with a standardized module to offer basic skills in sexual reproductive health and rights plus life planning skills which empower students to make informed decisions.  

During the orientation week, the students are made aware of the available services and where to report when in need for help.

The HIV burden

Although Uganda has made strides in regard to ending the HIV epidemic by 20230. Data shows that adolescents, young girls and women (AGYW) bear the burden of new HIV infections, contributing 36% of new infections in adults 15- 49 years.

Data from UPHIA 2020/2021 indicates that HIV testing for young PLHIV 15-24 is only at 63.7% for females and 47.3% for males. This clearly shows that HIV is real and if young people are not careful, they can be ravaged by the deadly virus.

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