Introduction

 AIDS has become one of the most devastating diseases the world has ever faced, posing serious challenges and undermining broad progress in development as well as in poverty reduction. Globally, more than 33 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV in 2007, and each day, over 6,800 people become infected with HIV and over 5,700 die from AIDS-related diseases.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SAA) remains the most affected region and AIDS was the leading cause of death in 2007. However, the scale and trends of the epidemics in the region vary considerably, with southern Africa most affected (UNAIDS/WHO, 2007). The core drivers of the epidemics in this region has been placed under five broad headings, namely:

(a) Biological and physiological,
(b) Sexual factors,
(c) Socio-cultural,
(d) Economic 
(e) Political.

The effect of the HIV and AIDS on the education sector is well documented. While it has been argued that the education sector could be fortified to become a country’s strongest weapon against HIV/AIDS, if this failed, the sector would become the worst victim, reversing decades of hard-won gains (The World Bank, 2002). 

In the higher education sub-sector, several universities in Africa are generating HIV/AIDS-related research covering all areas, including scientific, medical, socio-economic and communication that has added considerably to the international understanding of the disease.

To coordinate these efforts, and scale up the efforts of universities to produce AIDS-competent graduates, the Association of African Universities (AAU) developed as a multi-disciplinary HIV/AIDS Core Programme dubbed 'African Universities Responding to HIV/AIDS'  that aimed to ensure that tertiary education institutions in Africa can continue to contribute to the production of qualified, healthy and productive graduates for the world of work in support of the continent’s development. 

PHASE ONE (2002 – 2007)
Under Phase 1 of the Programme (2002 – 2007), which revolved around four major components, a growing number of institutions, particularly those in high HIV prevalence areas, responded positively.

Advocacy, a component of Phase 1 of the Core Programme, revolved around sensitisation of African higher education leaders attending AAU modular courses as well as the funding of 20 higher education institutions to develop workplace HIV policies. some of these policies are available online.

Findings of commissioned studies during Phase 1 were both published and disseminated at AAU statutory meetings, notably the 11th AAU General Conference in Cape Town, South Africa in February, 2005 and the AAU’s biannual Conference of Rectors, Vice Chancellors and Rectors of African Universities (COREVIP) in Tripoli, Libya in October 2007.

Training on an AAU developed HIV/AIDS Toolkit was a major activity under Phase 1. Now available in English, French and Portuguese, the toolkit was the main instrument used in organising four sub-regional training workshops as follows:

East Africa (2006), coordinated by Kenyatta University, Kenya
Central Africa (2006), coordinated by the National University of Rwanda, Rwanda
West Africa (2008), coordinated by the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Southern Africa (2008), coordinated by the University of Limpopo, MEDUNSA Campus, South Africa

Each workshop led to the establishment of a sub-regional network of higher education institutions fighting the HIV pandemic with the aim of sharing of best practices on HIV management and, invariably, the marketing of the Association and its programmes in the sub-regions.

Whereas 90 academics from 22 institutions selected from diverse fields of expertise benefited from a UNDP HIV/AIDS mainstreaming training programme in 2003, 18 more higher education institutions were funded to train their academics to integrate HIV and AIDS into their curriculum during Phase 1 of the AAU Core Programme.

Briefly, Phase I of the AAU HIV/AIDS Core Programme was resolved to ensure that the African higher education community used  all available means within the institutions and through partnerships with the international community to prevent the spread, mitigate the impact and manage the HIV epidemic through proactive, sustainable programmes of action.

PHASE TWO(2009 – 2013)
Lessons learnt from Phase 1 and the result of a survey on best practices in HIV and AIDS management in African higher education institutions initiated by the AAU in 2007 have led to the development of the AAU HIV and AIDS 5-year Strategic Framework, to be implemented as Phase 2 of the AAU HIV/AIDS Core Programme.

The general goal of the Strategic Framework is to improve the quality of life of the African productive age sector (15 – 49 years), with the expectation that there would be a reduced incidence of HIV infection among the African productive age sector.

To achieve this goal, five strategic objectives (SO) have been developed as follows:

SO 1: Strengthened top leadership of AAU member institutions through advocacy and capacity building to ensure their greater commitment to develop and enforce policies that ensures that students undertake HIV and AIDS education.

SO 2: Strengthened leadership and coordination of AAU Sub-Regional Networks (AAU-SRNs) to deliver to their constituencies in terms of extending information, particularly on best practices, in the management of the disease to all types of higher education institutions.

SO 3: Strengthened and improved university training and research on HIV and AIDS as a means of contributing to the advancement of knowledge and scholarship, particularly in providing students with important knowledge and skills as well as experience in putting these to practical use in the “real-world.”

SO 4: Strengthened HIV and AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care among AAU members to guide, monitor and ensure a supportive environment, and to provide visibility and importance to the HIV pandemic.

SO 5: Strengthened AAU Secretariat for Improved coordination to ensure effective monitoring of the implementation of the Strategic Framework.

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