PARLIAMENT has urged students at tertiary institutions to use condoms, provided by the National Aids Council (NAC) to reduce HIV prevalence, even if they disliked them.
By VENERANDA LANGA
The recommendations were made in the Senate by the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on HIV and Aids led by Lillian Timveos in a recent report on HIV/Aids at institutions of higher learning.
Senators visited different universities to discuss HIV and Aids issues, only to find out that students were shunning condoms distributed by NAC, describing them as “ugly, smelly condoms”.
“Students were unhappy with a particular brand of condom distributed at all institutions visited, these were dubbed ‘panther condoms’, and the condom is given by NAC and other partners, and students reported that they did not like the look or smell of it and, therefore, do not use it,” the committee report read.
“The committee recommends that students should use the condoms until they get the desired ones in order to avoid HIV infection, while institutions of higher learning should spread awareness of the female condom.”
Senators also found out that most tertiary institutions had no capacity to initiate anti-retroviral therapy because they were not registered with NAC, while most were understaffed and under-resourced.
“Information gathered pointed to the fact that most parents do not share any information relating to HIV and Aids with their children,” the report reads.
“There were reports of students who only discovered at college that they were HIV positive, but had been taking ARVs all their lives without knowing what they were being treated for. This exposed the students to re-infection and then infecting others without knowing.”
Hunger, lack of accommodation at colleges, peer pressure and lack of information about HIV/Aids was reportedly fuelling affairs with truck drivers and lecturers at institutions of higher learning resulting in HIV infections.
“At Mkoba Teachers’ College, the officials’ biggest concern was that most students cannot afford food and the college cannot afford to give them free meals,” the report revealed.
“HIV positive students from underprivileged families cannot take medication on empty stomachs. It was heartrending for Senators to listen to tales of how some students survive on maputi (popcorn) while others only managed one meal per day.”
NAC reportedly informed Senators that $500 000 had this year been earmarked for HIV programmes at tertiary institutions for peer education training, awareness campaigns, condom distribution and various activities like sending bulk messages on HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.
Other recommendations by the committee were that truck drivers and artisanal miners should be exposed to HIV and Aids awareness campaigns, as this population was part of the key populations interacting with students.
“Starting from 2018, every tertiary institution should have a clinic. Government should only register institutions of higher learning that have adequate health facilities to cater for the health of students,” the committee said.