HIV/Aids prevention in tertiary institutions still a long way

  • Students sceptic about taking PrEP
  • HIV/Aids prevalence high in tertiary institutions

HIV/Aids prevention among students in tertiary students in Zimbabwe is lagging behind, irrespective of the well knit preventative measures that are currently in place.

This was revealed on Friday by students who attended a workshop on the use of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in tertiary institutions.

PrEP is a treatment prescribed to people on high risk of contracting HIV/Aids.

Mongiwa  Dube, who works as a peer educator, said many students she works with are not well educated on the drug, while others are sceptical about taking it in fear of stigmatisation by peers and family members.

Taking PrEP at tertiary institutions is always associated with promiscuity, and this has made many students to stay away from it in order to avoid stigmatisation,” Dube said.

She further said the Zimbabwean community was not yet enlightened on reproductive health hence making it difficult for students to voluntarily discuss the medication with parents or peers.

Cultural beliefs still limit us from discussing sex with our parents.

Growing up, we have always been told that Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) makes one fat and shapeless, thus the fear of those side effects has also made a lot of tertiary students vulnerable to HIV/Aids,” Dube added.

Speaking at the workshop, Cleopatra Makura, who has been working with tertiary students in raising awareness of the PreP programme, said the drugs were not readily available at tertiary institutions.

Universities are hotspot areas for HIV/Aids due to their setup and environs, hence it is important to have PrEP readily available. But this has not been the case,” Makura said.

She said her dream was to see each institution of higher learning giving PrEP to every student to enhance the fight against HIV/Aids.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Southern Africa that has been benefiting from the drug since 2016, but the HIV/Aids prevalence rate has not improved.

The treatment has been made available freely to sex workers, homosexuals and other highly exposed people but few of them have openly taken the treatment.