UKZN Peer Education Programme driver, Mr Lungisani Gcumisa, recalls time spent with the Organisation:
‘It has been a great privilege and honour for me to have served in helping drive the Peer Education Programme at grassroots level at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for the past two years. The time spent learning about the programme in co-operation with peers and the University community has been remarkable and unforgettable. This learning curve resulted in me experiencing a strong personal attachment to the set up while working with other young people. I increased my knowledge about HIV and AIDS, learning a lot about the social challenges faced by a young person each day out there.
‘Working with young people, especially in the university environment, is never easy coming as it does with challenges that require a strong and persistent individual, especially when there is a difference of opinions. I have personally learned a lot about leadership through Campus HIV and AIDS Support Unit (SHASU), which was a continuation of what I experienced during my four years at Love Life.
‘The Peer Education involvement showed me how to educate my peers and community members on HIV prevention, how to help those infected and affected by HIV but, above all, I learned how not to discriminate and stigmatise those infected, including the LGBTI community.
‘We are living in denialism where most young people do not want to accept that we are part of those who are at risk through our daily behaviour, and form the daily percentage of incidences and prevalence of the pandemic. ‘Commitment, action and implementation will allow for truly sustainable results for people everywhere,’ said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
‘Previously, I had been ignorant and naive about the importance of having one sexual partner. The issue of prevention for various infections including HIV, STIs and pregnancy to mention a few, was the last thing I thought of. When I was still under 30 I had so many life regrets and having unplanned kids was also not a good thing. The benefit of joining Peer Education helped me to restructure my life, making safety the priority and minimising risky factors such as substance abuse and lack of sexual education. I am able negotiate how and when to have sex with someone.
‘Furthermore, the Non-Autocratic Programme Leaders provide one with a sense of belonging through a platform of an upward communication approach for innovation and proposing of ideas with the limited resources given to them. The academic learning and teaching environment would not have been in such a good space without the committed CHASU family and different stakeholders.
This is the result of varied training, unwavering support and supervision during awareness, and the advantage of exploring our confined environment by enabling us to have a golden key by being part of the 2016 International AIDS Conference. I have taken it upon myself to be part of the everyday response team to the call of the Fast-Track approach by UNAIDS to reach a set of time-bound targets - reducing new HIV infections by 75%, 90 90 90 and reducing the risk of transmission by 2020.
‘I feel my efforts have not been in vain and I want to continue being part of the change I want to see in the collective global fight in ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.’