STUDENTS’ poverty at tertiary institutions has resulted in “semester marriages” which are entered into by students who want to cut costs by sharing living quarters and expenses.
This arrangement is responsible for the spread of HIV as students in these “marriages” only use condoms for the first few times of sexual interaction and then abandon them later, a report on HIV/Aids in institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe has revealed.
“Both students and officials in all universities attested the existence of the ‘marriages’. However, the ‘married’ students may also have other relationships in which they are sexually active,” said the report.
The report comes after Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa recently said his ministry and development partners should look for ways “to close the tap” of new infections caused by key populations.
According to the National Aids Council statistics, one of the country’s biggest universities, Midlands State University, with an enrolment of 23 000 is the major driver of the Midlands’ high rate of HIV, with cases of sexually transmitted infections shooting from 5 814 to 6 727 in one year.
The report also added that lack of accommodation at tertiary institution campuses was also driving the spread of HIV.
“Most tertiary institutions are unable to accommodate all their students on campus where they can be monitored and chaperoned to some extent.
“A case in point was Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic which had over a thousand students enrolled, but the hostels only house a few students — 100 female students in the new site and 200 in the old site.
“Construction of hostels was left unfinished by the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry.
“Mkoba Teachers’ College reported that most students lived off campus because they could not afford the residence fees. Midlands State University enrols huge numbers, such that the institution is unable to offer all of them accommodation.
“Even those on campus sometimes engage in risky behaviour because of the ‘new found freedom’ away from parental restriction.
“Many reported the use of drugs and alcohol which results in risky behaviour. Adolescents are exposed to drugs and alcohol which are consumed/used to excess without the usual restriction from parents or guardians. Students in every institution stated that abuse of alcohol and drugs was a big contributor to HIV infection.”
The report also said students do not want to use the brand of condoms distributed at their institutions arguing that they did not like their look or smell, the Senate has heard.
In a report on HIV and Aids in institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe, the thematic committee said students did not like the so-called “panther condoms”.
“Students were unhappy with a particular brand of condom distributed in all institutions visited;. . .”
The condom is given by National Aids Council (Nac) and other partners. Students reported that they did not like the look or smell of it and therefore, do not use it,” the report said.
The committee noted that because most parents cannot afford to adequately support their children in tertiary institutions this results in cross-generational relationships which mostly affect female students who get into relationships with older men in exchange for money.
“The older men are not always willing to use protection, leaving the students vulnerable. It was reported that some students become prostitutes to make ends meet,” the report said.
The committee said some students are now engaging in sexual activities with artisanal miners.
“At Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic, the committee was informed that desperate female students engage in sexual relationships with artisanal miners in the area. Some of the miners are married or have multiple sexual relationships. —Blessings Mashaya