SOUTH AFRICA: Jessica Standish-White, "In their minds, those boys do not have HIV."

Photo: Laura Lopez Gonzalez/IRIN
"Most girls are aware about HIV ... but I think testing has made it more personal"
JOHANNESBURG, 31 July 2009 (PlusNews) - Jessica Standish-White is a senior student at St Mary's, a prestigious girls' school in one of Johannesburg's more affluent suburbs, where she organized an HIV testing drive. Standish-White, who is going to the University of Cape Town next year, told IRIN/PlusNews that some of her peers still think HIV can't happen to them.

"There is this perception that girls that go to St Mary's don't get HIV, and that's what we wanted to change.

I know in my friendship group we don't talk about condoms. "If girls are on the pill, I don't know how much of an issue the condom is. I know a lot of girls who are on the pill, and if they are on the pill and having sex with their boyfriends, I don't know how often a condom will be used, to be honest.

"It's a continuation of the perception that St Mary's girls are going out with boys who come from the same sort of background they do and, in their minds, those boys do not have HIV. I think it's a continuation of the ... [misperception] that [HIV] doesn't happen to people who live in the Johannesburg suburbs.

"Most girls are aware about HIV and how it works, but I think testing has made it more personal; I think the girls have really had to think about it.

"It's huge for a 15-year-old to take an HIV test - where do school kids get tested? I mean, parents can take you, but are kids speaking to their parents about HIV?

"For the absolute majority of girls, this week was their first time getting tested. It slightly challenged the parents, but I think it's good. The response was incredible - we had to do extra testing.

"It's really nice that the school recognises that some girls are having sex, and if they are not having sex now, they will be in the next few years.

"The school has been great in saying, 'We're quite happy to talk about it, and we're quite happy to educate girls so that when they start entering into that part of their lives they know what's going on and how to protect themselves'. It's really nice that the school doesn't deny that it's happening.

"Next year, if the University of Cape Town runs an awareness programme and says, 'Come test', I'll be, like, 'Sure, no problem, I've done that before'. I know that I'll feel good after – I just know more about it, and I think that makes it easier."


Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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