ON campus health facilities are not youth friendly as they are manned by senior citizens who have negative and judgemental attitudes towards young people, a top gender and women’s rights advocate has said.
By Michael Gwarisa
Speaking during a panel at a Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SHRH) dialogue at the University Of Zimbabwe (UZ), Musasa Project Executive Director, Netty Musanhu said it was high time tertiary institutions adopt a robust approach to the issue of advancing comprehensive SRHR services to University students.
“The problem is that when it comes to Universities and other tertiary institutions is that on campus clinics are manned by old people who do not understand the SRHR needs of young people.
“Nurses in university institutions need to understand that one can develop thrash or rash and it does not necessarily mean that person has a sexually transmitted infection or she is sleeping around, “said Musanhu.
She added that attitudes for health care workers needed to change as it the major reason young people shun seeking health and SRHR services from health institutions.
According to a study conducted by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) dubbed the Situational analysis on the status of the sexual and reproductive health of students in tertiary institutions, tertiary students from Tanzania and Zimbabwe shun seeking services offered on campus due to stigma by health staff.
“Students in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe indicated reluctance to utilize the health services offered on campus, often because of concerns about staff attitudes and confidentiality. Our research at the University of Zimbabwe, for example, indicated that although any student who attends the student clinic, for whatever reason, is offered HIV testing, only a very small proportion of them (1,240 of the 9,390 students in the 2015-2016 university year) opted to take it up.
“Four key respondents interviewed at the university had several possible explanations for this low uptake of testing. For example, the Dean of Students explained that he believed there was still a lot of stigma attached to HIV and AIDS, and that this was a major cause of students’ resistance to testing, as they felt that to be tested was to admit to sexual promiscuity,” said the report.
He also explained that there had been problems of confidentiality concerning some of the staff at the student clinic, and although these problems had been resolved by the university authorities, some of the students may still have worries over confidentiality issues.
The report also indicated that there is need for focused SRH support to female students – particularly first-year cohort:
“Notwithstanding data gaps, our findings suggests that first year female students are a particularly vulnerable subpopulation which requires targeted SRH education and support. Our study found that female students are often targeted specifically by older men for sexual relationships and had experienced sexual harassment from other students, as well as academic staff.”