SA students ignore safe-sex message

February 6, 2004

South African students are continuing to have unprotected sex despite knowing about the country's devastating HIV-Aids epidemic, according to a University of Cape Town study.

Research by Fiona Ross and Susan Levine, based on interviews with nearly 500 students in 2002, found that many continue to have unprotected sex.

This was prompted by, among other things, a lack of condoms and reflection during sexual encounters, alcoholism and a belief that being in a long-term relationship was protection enough.

While some students considered condom use fashionable, others were "sick and tired" of hearing about Aids, many were ignorant about the disease and others held irrational views - for example, that HIV infection was punishment for extramarital sex or was introduced by whites to control black population growth.

The findings coincided with the distribution of 7,000 copies of a CD-Rom, Your Moves , to higher education institutions. The CD allows students to place themselves in (theoretical) high-risk situations and discover the consequences of actions.

One in four of some half a million students leaves higher education with HIV, according to the Department of Health's annual survey of pregnant women attending public clinics.

In 2002, 15 per cent of pregnant teenagers and 29 per cent of pregnant 20 to 24-year-olds had the disease.

The CD was developed by the Higher Education HIV/Aids programme, a joint venture of the national education department, the South African University Vice-Chancellors' Association and the Committee of Technikon Principals.

The country's 19 institutions have introduced programmes to minimise infection and support students and staff who contract the virus.

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