Results of the HIV survey

In 2008/9, the Higher Education AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) conducted a national survey at 21 of the 22 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in South Africa to determine the prevalence of HIV infection among staff and students. Blood was obtained following informed consent (without personal identifiers), by finger prick from 1317 staff and students at UKZN and tested using standard laboratory tests to determine HIV status.

The overall HIV prevalence among staff and students at UKZN was 2.8%. Based on the stratified prevalence rates, it is estimated that there are about 675 students, 15 academic staff and 240 admin/service staff living with HIV at UKZN. At UKZN, HIV prevalence was slightly higher in women than men (3.1% vs 2.6%); a trend that was consistent across all institutions surveyed.

The overall HIV prevalence in UKZN students is marginally lower than the national student HIV prevalence of 3.4% overall. HIV prevalence was highest among UKZN service level staff at 16.3% and lowest among UKZN academic staff at 1.0%. While the sample sizes used to determine these prevalence rates were small, these rates are not unexpected as HIV prevalence rates can differ markedly across educational levels and social class strata.

With respect to knowledge of HIV status, a total of 40% of the individuals surveyed at UKZN had ever had an HIV test, of which 72% had been tested in the year prior to the survey and 54% had their test at UKZN. About a quarter of the respondents had attended a meeting or function about HIV/AIDS at UKZN in the year prior to the survey. Most (73%) of respondents knew of a place at UKZN where they could go for help and support if they were discovered to be HIV positive and 54% believed that management at UKZN take HIV /AIDS seriously.

Attached is the UKZN HIV survey report, which provides several recommendations. The results of the survey as well as the recommendations have been presented to Senate and Council and are now being reviewed by the University AIDS Committee and appropriate next steps are being planned to address the shortcomings identified.

Cautionary note for interpreting the survey results:

The HIV epidemic is unevenly distributed in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest HIV prevalence. It was expected that the survey would find that UKZN staff and students are disproportionately affected by HIV. It is therefore somewhat surprising to see that this is not the case and that the HIV prevalence in UKZN students is below the national rate. This could be due to a skewed sample where students who knew their HIV positive status did not participate in the survey creating an artificially low HIV prevalence rate in UKZN students. Based on the response rates across the strata, this is unlikely to be the case. Regardless, a 2.4% prevalence rate in UKZN students is still unacceptably high – it translates to one in 40 students being HIV infected – a rate that we have to work tirelessly to reduce. The HIV prevalence rates in academic, administrative and service staff need to be viewed in the same vein – any HIV prevalence rate above zero in UKZN students and staff is not acceptable.

This report is being released in the interests of ensuring the UKZN community is well informed of the challenges posed by the HIV epidemic to the University and its constituencies. Please be cautious in interpreting the results; there is no reason for alarm or complacency – instead, we hope that these data stimulate more concerted action from all of us at UKZN against the devastation caused by the HIV epidemic.

Click on the following link to access the document:

UKZN HIV survey report

MW Makgoba

Vice-Chancellor & Principal