GABORONE. Student organisations, staff and the administration at the University of Botswana have moved to confront the scourge of HIV/Aids, which has cut life expectancy in the sparsely populated southern African country from 62 to 50 years.
At least 20 of the 10,000 students at the university are suspected to have died of Aids so far this year. A survey of 1,374 students early this year found that all students questioned had become sexually active before entering university - emphasising that any interventions designed to change sexual behaviour must begin in upper primary and lower secondary classes.
Asked what precautions they would take to prevent contracting HIV, 25 per cent said "abstinence", 47 per cent said "safe sex all the time", 18 per cent said "one partner" and 8 per cent said "safe sex most of the time". Two per cent they took no precautions.
Condom use was uneven , with 79 per cent of males more likely to use them compared with 60 per cent of females. Erratic use of condoms was reported among 13 per cent males and 23 per cent of females, with 3 and 6 per cent respectively saying they "never" used them.
In the past 12 months, 60 per cent of male students and 33 per cent of female students had sexual intercourse with someone other than their partner. Of these 24 per cent admitted to unsafe sex. A small proportion of students admitted unsafe sex with partners with HIV.
The study made 12 recommendations ranging from "targeted messages" to youth-friendly centres on campus, peer counselling, prompt treatment of sexually transmitted disease, increased access to condoms, use of drama groups and annual health fairs.