Kwazulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has launched a health campaign, aiming to limit the number of students who drop out of college due to unplanned pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infection, or complications related to botched termination of pregnancy or cancer.
The MEC last week launched the department’s tertiary education health awareness programme at the University of Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus, under the theme #Seize The Moment: Take Charge of Youth Healthy Future; Our Moment, Our Future.
In a statement, the department said the initiative saw scores of students being tested for HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, TB, and blood-sugar levels, while others underwent pap smear tests.
Simelane-Zulu expressed concern that at least 40% of KZN’s tertiary education students, especially young women, are reported to engage in unprotected multiple partner sexual relations – heightening their chances of falling pregnant and/or contracting HIV. This is according to the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS).
The MEC says, therefore, that providing healthcare services, and promoting long term contraceptives, will help ensure that students begin to look after their health.
The family planning/ contraception arm of the campaign (“Smart Choices”) will aim to first change behaviours, then introduce and provide access to the solutions in the form of a range of contraceptive methods.
“Through this programme, we are taking comprehensive health education services to the students, from testing for HIV/AIDS to provision of medication, to making family planning options available, and screening for cancer. We believe this is necessary for tertiary education, because students do not necessarily go out and seek these services because it’s not always that convenient for them to do so. So, we’ve taken a decision to go to them. We are going to be rolling this programme out to other universities, universities of technology and TVET colleges.”
Simelane-Zulu said the department would be taking the programme to the University of Zululand next, before rolling it out to other universities and colleges.
“It’s a programme that is going to be continuous. What we’ve seen so far is an interest from students, and they’re quite happy about it. And they have requested us to come back. We’re quite encouraged, because the services that are provided here are really needed by the students. Students are exposed to risky sexual behaviours, and it’s not for us to judge them, but to provide knowledge and make sure that they are safe, because students are the future of this country.”