Is it just poverty causing the rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ?
By Brighton Chireka
I read on Newzimbabwe.com that at least 67% of university students around the country were infected with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the just ended academic year. It got the report from Student Union and councils from the universities around the country. According to the report, most sexually transmitted infections ( STIs) cases were recorded in the Masvingo province where Great Zimbabwe University is situated.
The reasons given in the report are that students are forced by poverty to engage in prostitution and the solution is for the government to properly fund our education system. If the government properly fund our education system then students will stop engaging in prostitution and the level of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)will decrease. I partly agree with this but to end here will be criminal as this is not the only reason why we have the rise in sexually transmitted infections.
I was a student at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) some years ago and during our days we were “overfunded”by the government. One would look after his or her siblings with the payout that we were getting from the government. Night clubs , restaurants and clothes outlets in Harare were aware of the dates when students would get their payouts and they would offer huge discounts to students. The UZ student ID was a special card in those days as it would allow us free entry into several places. The only time you would not want it was when the riot police was beating students for demonstrating in town and they would beat any student with a UZ student ID.
Even in those days of reasonable funding into our education system , we would see several cars visiting the ladies hostels. Sugar daddies were very common and they would take out female students at the campus and some female students would look down upon us . Some would swear that they would never go out with UBA ( a term which was used to mean male students at the university and the letters stood for University Bachelor Association). The point I am try to put across is that there is nothing new about female students going out with older men . There is also nothing new about female students being supported financially by older men from outside the campus. I used to overspend my payout as I liked my green bottle (beer) but knew where to get a soft loan when l got broke– a female student. Female students were always loaded as they were more responsible in the way they spend their money and some of them had other well wishers from outside the campus who were helping them financially.
The rate of sexual transmitted infections did not rise even to half of the level of the current figures yet sugar daddies were visiting female hostels. We need to look at the reason as to why now the figures are rising . The behaviour is the same but the outcome is different . I must admit that l do not have the figures of sugar daddies that visited then and today’s figures. More research need to be done to look into the causes of this rise but myself as an advocate of patients and the public I have a few comments to make .
Metro newspaper in the UK on the 15th December 2015 reported that if you are a student and want to get laid head down to Nottingham. One student boasted of having bedded a dozen girls in 2 weeks and another one is reported to have said it only takes two hours of “groundwork ” to get lucky . Mr Thurlow , who launched ShagAtUni in 2012 is reported to have said it was good thing students were being more sexually adventurous , but encouraged safe sex. My point here is that being sexually adventurous is worldwide among students, black or white , in Zimbabwe or UK. We need to look beyond poverty and look at the ways we can help our young students .
How do we prevent sexually transmitted infections ?
Promiscuity is rampant worldwide and our children are becoming sexually active at a young age. Parents are shocked by the amount of sexual knowledge in their children and their reaction is sometimes worsening the situation. Parents rightly teach their children to abstain from sex and they teach them not to have sex before marriage. Sadly very few parents talk to their children about what to do if they fail to abstain from sex. Our children only know one method and that method is to abstain from sex . This is a safe method if it is practiced but we have all been kids and we know what we did “kumahumbwe” ( children’s playgrounds). We all have “sinned and fell short of God’s glory , if we say we are not sinners then we make the one that died for us on the cross a liar”.
It is that moment of failure that we are not prepared and we have sadly not prepared our children. How do you expect a young lady that has been taught to abstain from sex and is lured into the act to respond in the hour of need? Will she be able to ask for a condom to be used when she does not know about sex ? Will she be able to negotiate with sugar daddy who claims to know everything ? The young lady is let down by the parent who did not talk about sex fully apart from saying do not do it. The young lady is let down by her parents who beat her if they see a condom in her wallet . The young lady is let down by the society who calls her a prostitute because she is carrying a condom in her purse. The young lady is let down by the government that keep free condoms at the hospital and not at nite clubs. The young lady is let down by a church pastor who prays for condoms before there are used for sexual activity as if the prayer will make the condoms work.
We now need to think outside the box and empower our female students . Yes we can preach to them that old men like myself are not good for you and also that sex before marriage is not good for them but we must not end there. We now need to have open discussion about the hazards of sex if not done properly . We need to be free to talk to our children. I want to go further to even educate our children that in these days treat every person as infected until proved otherwise. If you fail to abstain then as a last resort make sure that you use a condom. We have to warn our young ladies not to accept to be put into compromising positions without having a condom. Gone are the days when young ladies would be fooled that there are just doing foreplay and nothing more.
Foreplay leads to something and that something is a “play” and when you are dealing with a “player” the best advice is that you must have a condom. I am not promoting promiscuity but I am addressing reality . If at least 67 % of our students at the Universities in Zimbabwe were diagnosed with STIs this last academic year then we have a serious problem that need new ways of thinking.
Free condoms must be available at the right time , right place and to the right people. It’s pointless having condoms at family planning clinics that is only open Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm. Most sexual encounters sadly they happen after 5pm and also at weekends so it beggars belief that condoms are not available these times. Free condoms must be available in each and every nite club and the message to those that frequent these places is that they should have one in their pockets.
Churches must preach about abstinence but must not end there . There is need to accept other ways of preventing infections if one falls into sin. Pastors must not mislead their congregants by praying for condoms. Praying for condoms is wrong as it mislead people into thinking that there are now free to be promiscuous using the “holy condoms” and also some may think that only “holy condoms” work in preventing sexual transmitted infections when the truth is that all condoms if used properly do prevent the spread of STIs. Having said that I must emphasise that those that are Christians must seriously pray for their children and must also be open minded if they have a prodigal son or daughter. You must have the “father’s” love which is unconditional and is prepared to embrace our sons and daughters as there are.
Let us not give the reasons for our children to curse our graves for refusing knowledge and our refusal would have caused their downfall in life. Let us be open to them and let them make informed decisions with full facts about sex. Let us explain to them all the tricks we know that old men like me use to lure ignorant young ladies. Ladies need to be aware that they can say no to having sex and must not be forced. If forced they must report that perpetrator to the police without delay.
I welcome your views on this issue and I know that I will be shot by several people who will say , ” How dare you ?” My response is , “so who should speak about the unspeakable?”
This article was compiled by Dr Brighton Chireka, who is a GP and a Health Commissioner in South Kent Coast in the United Kingdom. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org and can read more of his work on his blog at DR CHIREKA’S BLOG
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Dr Chireka has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health-care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Views expressed here are personal and do not in any way, shape or form represents the views of organisations that Dr Chireka work for or is associated with.