ZIMBABWE: HIV-Aids ignorance among female students

Zimbabwe's female university students are mainly ignorant of HIV-Aids as well as their sexual and reproductive health rights, a new survey has concluded.

The survey was conducted by a non-governmental organisation, the Women's Trust, in conjunction with the Central Statistics Office, to establish the levels of awareness of vulnerability and drivers of infection among the 16-24 year age group at the country's 12 institutions of higher learning.

A report of the survey of 5,000 students, including 1,000 males, noted that levels of knowledge among female students with regard to their sexual and reproductive health rights or HIV were low.

In Zimbabwean society, discussion and education about sexual matters is frowned upon because it defies cultural norms and values and the belief is that "the less young people know, the better of they are", the report said.

"Of the female students, 32% are sexually active. Of this group 28% reported not using contraceptives. This is cause for concern considering the volume of information in all media and life skills courses offered by tertiary institutions. There are low levels of awareness of vulnerability to HIV and Aids."

The survey said that in the face of the country's economic crisis, some students said they engaged in sexual activities to raise money. It added that 297 female students out of the overall respondents said they were married and 15% of them reported they were experiencing domestic violence in their marriages.