A recent study reveals that despite saturation of interventions that encourage Batswana to test for HIV, tertiary students are terrified of testing for the virus.
The Tertiary Education Council (TEC) HIV/AIDS study of 2009/2010, the first of its kind at TEC, was done as part of an ongoing project to meet the HIV/AIDS prevention needs of Botswana’s tertiary youth. It found that many students are terrified, in case they test positive.
“For us, when it comes to AIDS, it’s the end of everything. We don’t want that because we still want everything,” says one University of Botswana (UB) student who participated in the study. “The majority of youth and people around will choose not to know. I have heard people say ‘I would rather see myself start to lose weight than to know (my HIV status)’.”
The study’s report, currently being discussed in community and campus consultative forums, says tertiary institutions are expected to play a significant role in the response to HIV/AIDS.
“As the leading institutions of intellectual and human resource development, tertiary youth are the most infected and vulnerable group,” says Melissa Godwaldt, a TEC HIV/AIDS adviser and researcher on the study.
“Youth at tertiary level are still putting themselves under high risk of infection, despite the saturation of interventions directed at them.”
According to the study, out of 4312 tertiary students who took part in the research, 1,940 (45 percent) said they once had sex without a condom.
Further, 1,453 (33.7 percent) confessed to not having been faithful to their partners while 1,634 (37.9 percent) thought their partners had not been faithful to them too.
When commenting on the statistics, Goldwalt said these percentages may seem low, but any percentage above 0 percent is worrying when there is a threat of HIV. During 2010, the HIV/AIDS Center in the UB recorded a 13 percent increase in students who tested HIV positive.
The report states that the issue of multiple concurrent partners is worsened by cases of sex for sale.
According to the research, Botswana’s reality is that an HIV-free generation can only be imagined, with many young people already living with HIV and many experiencing the devastating effects of AIDS-related deaths.
The study is TEC’s effort to provide a strategy and operational plan to guide institutions, parents and stakeholders to support the young generation.