The HIV/AIDS scenario today
According to UNAIDS (2017), Eastern and Southern Africa is the region which has the most people living with HIV in the world (19.4 million), while only being home to 6.2% of the global population. Put differently, more than 50% of the total number of people living with HIV in the world call Eastern and Southern Africa their home. Despite new infections declining by 29% between 2010 and 2016 in this region, it still accounted for 43% of the global total of new infections in 2016.
For some years now, South Africa has had the largest HIV epidemic of any country in the world, with 19% of the global number of people living with HIV in 2016. To address this problem, South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme in the world to help serve its estimated 7.1 million people living with HIV. It also has one of the largest domestically funded programmes, with about 80% of the AIDS response funded by the government.
Despite these efforts, HIV prevalence (the number of people infected) remains high at 18.9% among the general population in 2016. In fact, one third of all new infections in Eastern and Southern Africa – 270,000 new infections to be precise – occurred in South Africa in 2016 alone. Moreover, 110,000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses in that same year. The disease primarily kills people in their most productive years and exceeds any other threat to the wellbeing of employees. The economic impact is therefore substantial.
Academic programmes to address the HIV/AIDS problem
Towards the end of 2000, SA's presidency challenged Stellenbosch University to develop a programme that takes HIV training and capacity building to the managers and labour leaders of the workforce. The rationale behind the challenge was that, regardless of what is done in the community, prevention and care had to be extended to the workplace in order to make a dent in the epidemic. This led to the development of the Postgraduate Diploma in HIV/AIDS Management (PDM), first presented in 2001 under the auspices of the Department of Industrial Psychology. To date, 3154 number of students have successfully completed the PDM.
As a direct result of the success of the PDM, the Africa Centre for HIV/AIDS Management was established in January 2003, functioning as a fully-fledged unit for education, research and community service related to HIV/AIDS management in the workplace. In that same year, a Masters programme was introduced which builds and expands on the HIV-related skills of students who have completed the PDM. To date, 482 students have successfully completed the Masters programme.
Today, the Centre also hosts a Doctoral programme, with its first graduandi expected in the next couple of years.
Goals and Purposes
The Africa Centre believes academic institutions must play a creative and active role in nourishing social, political and economic transformation. They structure this role on three pillars: academic programmes, research and community mobilisation. Taking into account these pillars, the Centre has the following general aims:
- Building knowledge and infrastructure in order to maintain the highest possible standards in the education, research and service rendering on HIV/AIDS in the workplace by offering postgraduate educational programmes on the management of HIV/AIDS in the workplace (which can be also offered in collaboration with other institutions and with the support of external funding)
- Conducting research with respect to HIV/AIDS in the workplace, as well as publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals
- Developing and implementing community projects relating to the management of HIV/AIDS in the workplace
- Making available knowledge and expertise in the area of HIV/AIDS in the workplace to interested people and organisations
- Controlling and managing external funds earmarked for the Centre to improve its teaching, research and service-rendering capabilities
Apart from the dedicated permanent staff, the Centre collaborates with specialists in various sectors, from both inside and outside Stellenbosch University. Every person involved with the work of the Africa Centre has a true passion for being pro-active about HIV/AIDS and bringing hope to a nation severely affected by the disease.