Urgent and concerted effort is needed to rescue students in higher learning institutions from contracting HIV/Aids, a survey has revealed.
A survey conducted by ‘The Guardian’ between February 11 and April 14 this year in four higher learning institutions based in the region - Teophilo Kisanji (TEKU), Mzumbe University College, Mbeya Institute of Science Technology (MIST) and Tanzania Institute of Accountancy (TIA) – has revealed that most students engage in risky behaviours.
According to the survey’s findings, most students in the mentioned institutions have more than one sexual partner, a situation known as ‘Multiple Concurrent Partners (MCP) and that unprotected sex was a common phenomenon.
Sexual Networks or MCPs, the practice of people having more than one sexual partner at the same time, are a major driver of HIV epidemic. Other factors leading to MCP are revenge, alcohol, peer pressure and globalisation.
“Having more than one sexual partner is very common here; we are seeing it very much at our college. Students are having sexual partners exceeding even two or three or even more than that, so as to get money for subsistence,” intoned Daniel Thomas, a Third Year student enrolled in the Architecture programme at MIST.
The survey also indicated that most students engaging in bad sexual behaviours, don’t use condoms effectively, as they tend to do so on early states of their relationships and stop when the affair reach an advanced stage.
Daniel said that the desire for luxury material possessions was one of the key driving factors compelling girls to go for more than one sexual partner. “Girls go for multiple sexual partners in order to get material goods or lead lifestyles they admire from well to do peers. If she admires something like a blackberry, an iphone, cloth or shoes, she opts to look for a sexual partner or even two or more,” Thomas said.
Gabriel Nilla, a Second Year Civil Engineering student at the MIST said majority of young people engage in sexual affair with a student or students and some of them have lovers outside the campus.
Rachel Lyimo from Family Health International 360 (FHI360)’s UJANA project said that currently more than half of HIV, a virus that causes AIDS infections happens in young people.
She said various factors have been attributed to it, including having multiple concurrent partners, low condom use, lack of skills to translate knowledge into practice and economic factors, with young girls and women being three times at risk.
“If one person in the sexual network is infected with HIV, the entire network is at risk,” Lyimo warned.
Frola Emanuel, a student from MIST, appealed to students to refrain from unsafe sex. “I appeal to my fellow students to focus on studies, sexual affairs will only lead them to regrets in future,” Emanuel cautioned.
According to an NGO, Youth Education Through Sports Tanzania (YES Tanzania), sexual networks cause the HIV virus to spread more quickly in Africa than in other parts of the word.
He said evidence shows that MCP is one of the factors that help HIV spread quickly in Southern Africa, as confirmed at a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Think Tank meeting held in Maseru, Lesotho in May 2006.
Quoting then UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, it said global success in combating HIV/Aids must be measured by its impact on children and young people.