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The HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity and Change Unit (HAICU) is based in the Transformation Office residing in the Office of the Vice Chancellor.  It was previously called the HIV/AIDS Unit and formed in 1994. However, with the realisation that HIV needs to be treated as not just a health issue, but as an issue of Transformation (exploring the contextual issues which lead to increased HIV transmission such as unequal gender norms; discrimination against the sexually diverse population; the increased chance of HIV transmission occurring with women involved in gender-based violence; and addressing the needs of people who feel stigmatised), the unit was moved to the Transformation Office reporting to the Office of the Vice Chancellor in 2006.

The vision of HAICU is: A transformed, change-competent UCT community addressing HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa.

The mission of HAICU is to coordinate a collaborative response that supports UCT transformation and builds student and staff capacity through curriculum, co-curriculum and social responsiveness initiatives.

In line with this, the research-based, broad strategic objectives of HAICU are: Building knowledge and skills; Creating safe social spaces for dialogue; Promoting ownership and responsibility; Building confidence in local strengths, and agency to mobilise these; Building solidarity (“bonding” relationships); and Building partnerships (“bridging” relationships). This is adapted from Catherine Campbell’s theory of an AIDS Competent Community (2005).

Campbell suggests that to become an AIDS-competent community, community members should establish six structures within their intervention. Firstly, the participants in the intervention should have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and the necessary skills to avoid HIV infection (Campbell, 2005). Secondly, forums for one-on-one engagement by the participants would need to be established, to allow participants to freely discuss issues about HIV/AIDS. Thirdly, participants must be able to take “ownership of the problem, and acquire a sense of responsibility for contributing to the solution” (Campbell, 2005, p.14). Fourthly, the participants need to be motivated and believe they have the capacity to institute a change. Fifthly, the participants need to be working towards “building ‘bridging’ relationships with networks and agencies outside the community who have the political or economic power to facilitate effective local community responses to AIDS” (Campbell, 2005, p.15). Lastly, Campbell states that if the community is to begin the process of becoming AIDS-competent, its members need to have access to community services and resources that actively address HIV and AIDS.

This theory was adapted by HAICU to  form a change-competent community where participants acquire knowledge and skills not just about HIV, but also about what contexts give rise to HIV transmission and about the intersection of HIV issues with those of race; class; gender; violence and sexual orientation.

The activities of HAICU to achieve these strategic objectives include:

1.    HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence and sexuality peer education programme – Agents of Change Education (ACEs) for students
2.    Ensuring HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence and sexuality curricula development and implementation
3.    Mapping the UCT response to HIV/AIDS, sexuality and gender-based violence
4.    Conducting needs assessments and programme monitoring and evaluation
5.    Information and referral services
6.    Sexuality and inclusivity workshops for staff
7.    Developing, reviewing and steering HIV/AIDS and sexuality policy implementation
8.    Developing communication campaigns that feed curricula and co-curricular responses and organising HIV/AIDS, gender-based     violence and sexuality awareness events at UCT
9.    Networking both internally and with other higher education institutions and organisations


Addressing stigma is an issue of Transformation and it is also a key strategy of the South African National Strategic Plan. Originally it was thought that by putting HIV positive people on anti-retrovirals (ARVs), stigma would disappear, however, this has not been the case. Campbell et al. studied 118 ARV users, AIDS caregivers, and nurses in Zimbabwe. Stigma remains strong. (Campbell et al. 2011, p.1). Addressing HIV stigma in residence workshops is a key component of the HAICU programme.

Gender, Gender-Based Violence and HIV

In 2010 Higher Education HIV/AIDS Programme released results from a National HIV Prevalence Survey. What is significant in the report is that the researchers found that women with an HIV prevalence of 4.7% were more than three times as likely to be HIV positive, compared to men, and this difference was statistically significant. HIV was significantly more common among men (6.5%) and women (12.1%) who reported symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last year, compared to men (2.5%) and women (6%) who did not report an STI. Addressing gender and gender-based violence in residence workshops is a key component of the HAICU programme.

Sexually Diverse

In a study conducted by Cal Volks, HAICU Director, involving UCT students living with HIV in 2012 and 2013 (Ethics permission was obtained through the UCT Graduate School of Business; Participants gave informed consent to report on the study), it was noted that it was important to understand how one student who was given a pseudonym Aaron (to keep his identity anonymous), became HIV positive because it shows the devastating intersection between sexual orientation and gender-based violence and HIV in South Africa.

Aaron, who identifies himself as a gay black fourth year student, says that he was infected through “corrective gang rape” by seven men, some of whom must have been HIV positive. He was in Grade 10 and seized by these men in an alley way. He says that while they were raping him they were shouting that after this he would not be gay. When asked why he didn’t report this to the police he said: “When I go to the police, they’re just going to say you’re gay, you can’t be raped.” His expectations of being treated in an inclusive way regarding his sexual orientation were so low that he chose not to report the rape. At UCT he was ultimately able to come to the University’s HIV/AIDS, Inclusivity and Change Unit and engaged with UCT's Psychological Services, to begin to work through his trauma.

It is also reported that MSM (men who have sex with men) populations are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting 2014). The first National Knowledge, Attitude, Behaviour and Prevalence (KAPB) study among Higher Education Institutions reported that, of the 6% of male staff and male students who had same sex relations in the past year, there was a 4.1% HIV prevalence, compared to the 1.7% of men who had not had same sex relations (HEAIDS, 2010).


Campbell, Skovdal, Madanhire, Mugurungi, Gregson and Nyamukapa, (2011). "We, the AIDS people. . .": how antiretroviral therapy enables Zimbabweans living with HIV/AIDS to cope with stigma. American journal of public health, 101 (6). pp. 1004-1010. ISSN 0090-0036.

Campbell C, Nair Y, Maimane S and Sibiya Z (2005). Building AIDS Competent Communities  in AIDS Bulletin, 14 (3), 14-19.

HEAIDS (2010). Nation HIV Sero-Prevalence Survey at 23 Higher education Institutions.  

Volks, C (Ed). (2012). AIDS Review. Third Degree. University of Pretoria. Centre For The Study of AIDS.

Volks, C. (2013). Are They Really Born Free? Assessing and addressing experiences of HIV stigma and the intersection of discrimination around race, language, class gender and sexual orientation of UCT HIV positive students in 2006 and 2012.