Demand for the so-called morning-after pill is on the increase among college students in Masvingo, suggesting a high prevalence of unprotected se_x and the attended risk of contracting se_xually transmitted infections.
Pharmacies in the city reportedly report regular stock-outs of levonorgestrel tablets (morning after pills), an emergency contraception which is used after se_xual intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
The National AIDS Council (NAC) says it is concerned that the development suggests students are concerned more about preventing pregnancies than contracting infections such as HIV.
Masvingo has a huge number of tertiary education institutions, among them Morgenster Teachers’ College, Great Zimbabwe University, Reformed Church of Zimbabwe University Masvingo Teacher’s College, Masvingo Polytechnic and Bondolfi Teacher’s College.
“We have young people in tertiary education and Masvingo is blessed to have many universities,” said provincial manager Edward Muzulu.
“So many activities happen in these colleges such as transactional se_x, and we get reports from our partners such as CeSHAAR and Population Services International indicating increased utilization of what is commonly known as morning-after pill by these young girls.
“These are the figures we are getting from our partners (and) we are worried that the morning after pill shows that these girls are more afraid of getting pregnant rather than HIV.
“If you are taking a morning-after pill, it suggests that you have had unprotected sex and we should be mindful that unprotected se_x also cause HIV infection.”
Muzulu said NAC was involved in a number of programmes aimed at curbing the spread of HIV in the province.
“We are working with these institutions and we have a taskforce made up of lecturers from all the universities and we meet every quarter to review what we can do better,” he said.
“We conduct dialogues, or interactions for the youths and other one-off activities as well as voluntary male circumcision.
“And we are also working with other partners to see that these students get more information about HIV and AIDS.”