As an institution and in line with its mission, the University of Zambia (UNZA) strives to engage and be responsible to the University community in mitigating the impact of HIV and AIDS, both on its internal constituency of students, staff, staff dependants and surrounding community.
In recognition of the devastation the HIV and AIDS pandemic was having on the University staffing and studentship a multi-disciplinary committee on HIV and AIDS, the University of Zambia Committee on HIV and AIDS (UCA) was appointed by the Vice Chancellor of the University. The UCA’s aim was to bring under one umbrella and all HIV and AIDS related projects at all of UNZA’s campuses. The UCA, previously the Vice Chancellors Committee on HIV and AIDS (VCCA) was set up in 2003 to oversee the formulation of an institutional HIV and AIDS policy as well as set up the HIV and AIDS Secretariat –the HIV and AIDS Response Programme. Thus the HIV and AIDS Response Programme was formed in July 2005 as an implementing body of the UCA.
The University of Zambia HIV and AIDS Response Programme (UNZA-HARP) is the coordinating body for student and staff HIV and AIDS related associations reaches out to a community of about 16, 000 students and 2500 members of staff and their families. UNZA-HARP operations cover the entire university community which also includes surrounding areas like Kalingalinga compound, Ng’ombe compound, Handsworth, Kalundu, Marshlands and parts of Jesmondine and Munali.
The programme has four thematic areas;
- Treatment, care and support,
- Counseling and testing
- Education and outreach and
- HIV and AIDS research.
Concerning education and outreach, UNZA-HARP works with peer educators who engage students, members of staff and other members of the University community on Sexual and reproductive Health issues including HIV and AIDS.
Treatment, Care and Support
Treatment, care and support of people living with HIV and AIDS remain priority under UNZA-HARP. This is premised on the understanding that those infected with HIV and suffering from AIDS have a right to life, hence needs to be provided with effective medical attention, cared for and supported in a manner that will improve their health and psychological well-being. This is a service that is currently provided by the University Clinic.
Counseling and Testing
Counselling and testing is a first and critical component in managing HIV and AIDS. People who are not tested do not know their HIV and AIDS status and for those who are living with the disease it entails delayed treatment for prolonged living. However, for people to be tested for HIV and AIDS, they need to understand fully the implications and be willing to provide an informed consent. In this regard, it will be within the remit of UNZA-HARP through this thematic area to consistently provide counselling and testing services as well as influence access to these services by those who need them. The University Clinic offers both a static VCT and periodic mobile VCT in the University community.
Education and Community Outreach
The objectives of these initiatives are to create awareness on HIV and AIDS and achieve attitude and behaviour change among various stakeholders. The activities have thus involved peer education of students and communities surrounding the university on HIV and AIDS and other related health issues. The Unit has also trained Peer Educators who have been the drivers of the education. Currently, there are over 50 student peer educators and 30 staff peer educators that the unit is working with. Other activities include production and dissemination of IEC materials (posters, brochures, radio programmes) that are appropriate for its various groups – students and staff – covering issues of gender; multiple concurrent partnerships, Anti retroviral treatment; sexual harassment etc.
HIV and AIDS Research
UNZA-HARP sources for research grants and works with UCA and other stakeholders in calling for abstracts on HIV and AIDS elated issues from among both staff and students. The HIV and AIDS Response Programme also awards small grants for a limited number of surveys on HIV and AIDS and related health issues to deserving proposal. Two baseline surveys were commissioned in 2006 on the following topics: Sexual Behaviour; and Sexual Harassment. These surveys were aimed at determining the HIV and AIDS knowledge, attitudes and practices of the students in the various schools of the institution as well as determine existence and levels of sexual harassment exists at UNZA. The results of these activities are disseminated to at workshops attended by various stakeholders.
Largely due to the work of the HIV Response Programme, the University of Zambia was awarded the Red Ribbon Award by the Ministry of Health, the ZNAN, Youth Media and other collaborating partners for best institutional all-encompassing HIV/AIDS Policy in response to HIV/AIDS 2006.
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