Students off to Cuba

2014-11-12 00:00

BIDDING farewell to 96 students who will soon be on their way to Cuba to study medicine, KZN MEC for Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo thanked them for not contracting HIV.

Yesterday, Dhlomo thanked the medical students for having worked hard to pass matric without contracting HIV.

“You cannot study in Cuba if you are HIV positive,” he explained.

Responding to this, the Treatment Action Campaign’s (TAC) provincial co-ordinator Mzamo Zondi said they challenged the mandatory HIV testing.

“People living with HIV can do everything but the ruling of other countries really upsets us. This stigmatises people living with HIV. Our wish as TAC is for countries to partner up and find a solution for such rulings in countries such as Cuba,” he added.

Zondi also mentioned that in September they took the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to court for discriminating against and redeploying people living with HIV.

The 96 trainees are expected to depart at 8 am from King Shaka International Airport on Thursday, with KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu and Dhlomo bidding them farewell.

Dhlomo also urged the medical students to prepare to work hard, to be well behaved and be good ambassadors for South Africa. Their departure will now bring the total number of KZN medical trainees in Cuba to 789.

Dhlomo told the trainees they have been given a unique opportunity and they need to persevere the first three years, because the work load is enormous.

“This journey is like running a marathon. You need to have strong mental ability and tell yourself that the one beside you is equally tired but is still persevering,” he said.

By 2019, all these medical students would have returned to the country to begin ploughing back their much-needed skills in their own communities.

Dhlomo also provided guidance on the do’s and don’ts of life in a foreign country like Cuba.

He emphasisd their psychological preparedness, life skills, good behaviour and urged them to avoid drug and alcohol abuse, pregnancy and other activities “leading to misbehaviour”.

Lindiwe Ngcobo, mother of student Bahle from Edendale, said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we expect him to come back to serve his community first,” she said.

The Witness also spoke to Yolanda Peterson, mother of a former Haythorne Secondary School pupil, Talisa Peterson (20), who fell in love with the medical field at a very young age.

Peterson said the living conditions in Cuba would be very different. “There’ll be no phuthu, but even if they are given rice and eggs to eat, they should appreciate that,” she said laughing.

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