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20 years of HIV/AIDS education

19 May 2014 - 10:30

Candle MemorialKeenan Hendrickse, SRC secretary-general, and Carey McIntosh, SRC health coordinator, added their voice to support for those living with HIV/AIDS and members of the LGBQTI community at UCT's annual candlelight memorial.

Another anniversary - commemorating 20 years of UCT running an HIV/AIDS programme and the ACE's student peer education programme - was celebrated at the annual candlelight memorial on 8 May.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Thandabantu Nhlapo said the event serves to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. "With 33 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is an important intervention for global solidarity and in breaking down the barriers of stigma and discrimination," he commented.

Cal Volks, director of the HIV, AIDS Inclusivity and Change Unit (HAICU), explained that the memorial is about "remembering those we have lost to AIDS and renewing all of our commitment to addressing HIV prevention, treatment and stigma".

"On this day, at this gathering, we also speak out as members of the university community about the rights of people who identify themselves as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, questioning, transsexual, intersex, (LGBQTI) and men who have sex with men - in Africa and the world. We support your human rights," she added.

Another speaker at the event, Professor Pierre de Vos from the law faculty, observed that "one of the big problems with prejudice and stigma is that it is usually internalised by those at the receiving end of it".

Past peer educators attended the events, which formed part of the university's Africa Month celebrations. A UCT alumnus who was a peer educator in 1994, Dr Marc Hendricks, performed musical items together with Amanda Tiffin, a lecturer at the South African College of Music.

The memorial was used to inform UCT students and staff of a new initiative, with the name Out Zone/Zone In. Volks pointed out that wherever the Out Zone/Zone In sign is seen on an office door, it designates a safe space, where members of the LGBQTI community can discuss issues related to being gay, lesbian, bisexual, questioning, transsexual and intersex, without being judged or stigmatised. The initiative is run jointly by HAICU, RainbowUCT and the Student Representative Council (SRC).

Students who spoke at the event included RainbowUCT's Asheen Bhagwandin, together with Keenan Hendrickse and Carey McIntosh, both from the SRC.

Story by Abigail Calata.

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