Minister of Health and Child Care David Parirenyatwa has encouraged non-governmental organisations and stakeholders in the health sector to look seriously into the issue of escalating rates of sexually transmitted infection (STIs) cases in universities and other tertiary institutions.
Parirenyatwa said this at the sidelines of a Young for Real Project Experience Sharing and Dissemination workshop held on Thursday in Harare.
“The work that SafAids (Southern Africa HIV and Aids Dissemination Service) has been doing around the county of equipping young people with the information on sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescents and young people is very good and stakeholders in the health sector should also step up and join the work that SafAids is doing,” Parirenyatwa said.
“I really want to see young people being equipped with this information especially at universities where cases of STI are high,” he added.
The minister’s sentiments come after recent reports showed that at least 10 000 people in Masvingo province contracted STIs within three months this year, and there were strong suggestions that students at tertiary institutions in the resort town accounted for a higher percentage of the patients.
The Young For Real is a European Union-SafAids-funded programme working on reproductive health action team promoting access to sexual and reproductive health and rights among young people in Zimbabwe.
A female student from Mutare Teachers’ College who requested anonymity said that it was due to lack of resources that they tend to engage in unprotected sex.
“The rentals are very high and money to buy food is a problem and most students end up practicing unsafe sex to earn money,” she said.
The occasion was also graced by custodians of traditional law. Among them was Chief Fred Sami Gambiza of Chiwundura district in Gweru who applauded SafAids for the work that it has been doing in creating a supportive environment for addressing sexual issues among young people .
“We are the custodians of traditional law and the young people look up to us for guidance. Most parents still regard it as a taboo to discuss sexual issues with their own children, but I urge them to discuss these issues,” Gambiza said.
“Young people should be equipped with the information about sex so that they will also disseminate it to others,” he added.
SafAids executive director Lois Chingandu said that the organisation would continue to do projects that would provide information to young people about issues of their reproductive.
“As an organisation, we will go an extra mile to help many young women about sexual and reproductive health and rights,” she said.