Newfound freedom equals exposure to HIV

Almost half of South Africa’s higher education students are having sex with more than one partner; about 18 per cent admit to changing partners in one month; and about 35 percent say they do not know who they have slept with in the past month.

Almost half of South Africa’s higher education students are having sex with more than one partner; about 18 per cent admit to changing partners in one month; and about 35 percent say they do not know who they have slept with in the past month.

These were some of the findings of research done by the Higher Education HIV and Aids Programme (HEAids) at 23 universities in South Africa – involving more than 2 million young people.

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, the director of the programme, said the study found that first-year female students, unused to their newfound freedom, naively exposed themselves to risks associated with alcohol abuse and sex. They were also targeted by older students and non-students who frequented campuses.

“There are strong social pressures for students to engage in sexual activities. About 41 per cent of students said they had multiple sexual partners in the year prior to the study being conducted, while about 18 per cent shifted partners in the month prior to the study.”

Prostitution was also a problem among female students and “one of the biggest drivers of the epidemic”,” Ahluwalia said.

Binge-drinking and drug abuse were linked to unprotected sex, and this was worrying as the student population was the one that would make the difference in the fight against HIV and Aids, he added.

Ahluwalia said in countries where a strong higher-education sector was present, the extent of disease was less. “The students are the next generation and we all need to work together on this,” he said. - The Mercury

 

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