msu campus.jpgA student-based movement called ‘Say-What,’ is advocating for on-campus youth friendly services that are easily accessible and affordable after research findings have revealed that there is a high prevalence of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among youths aged between 15 and 24, most of whom are in tertiary institutions.

 

80 delegates, including students from the University of Zambia, University of Kwazulu Natal, the University of Pretoria and the Catholic University in Mozambique, participated at the 5th National Student’s Conference held in Harare, which was organised by Say-What.

 

Say-What seeks to promote sexual and reproductive health rights for tertiary students.

 

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Director of the organisation, Jimmy Wilford, said college students are lacking proper guidance and there is no access to prevention and treatment packages at most of the tertiary institutions and there is need for behaviour change communication.

 

“There is remarkable behaviour change in most tertiary institutions in the country as evidenced by an increased uptake of both male and female condoms and most of the students seem to know the dangers of contracting HIV, that is why they are now protecting themselves. We also feel that all colleges must be equipped with proper facilities to assist students who may wish to learn more about reproductive health issues,” said Wilford.

 

Some of the college students attending the conference agreed that inadequate funding to sustain them through their days at college has led to female students engaging in sexual relationships with older men, a situation that has put younger girls at risk of contracting HIV from elderly men.

 

Even the male students concurred that they are also at high risk as they can also contract the virus through college casual sex.

 

The conference, which was running under the theme ‘Rights, right into the decade,’ covered a wide range of issues affecting young people, including the key drivers of HIV and the state of sexual and reproductive health programming in tertiary institutions.

 

Mr Wilford said his organisation has also conducted a research programme with 19 tertiary institutions in the country including 3 universities, 3 polytechnics, 6 teachers colleges and 7 agricultural colleges, assessing sexual and reproductive health programming and knowledge levels in an effort to understand why there is high prevalence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections in tertiary institutions.