The Center for the Study of HIV and AIDS (CSHA) has joined hands with the Tertiary Education Council (TEC) in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS by introducing monthly behavior change youth discussion forums at the University of Botswana.
This is in an effort to reach Botswana’s 2016 long term goal of zero new infections.
Analysis from the 2008 Botswana Aids Impact Survey III (BAIS) says that “each day more than 50 people in Botswana are newly infected with HIV”.
Famously, the study further revealed the national prevalence of 17.6 percent, making Botswana second in the global rankings of HIV prevalence after Swaziland.
Due to these worrying figures, the discussions forums aim to empower the youth to unite and fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“We mostly emphasize more on sexual activities in relationships among the students as most of them do not have the opportunity to talk about it with parents,” explained CSHA communication advisor, Nadia Berger.
Berger said that they address issues of “Who is in your sexual network” and educate youths on the dangers of Multiple Concurrent Partnerships (MCP) ÔÇô one of the major factors scaling up the national spread of HIV.
Even though the discussions have been ongoing for some months now, Berger pointed that they are of great benefit to students, the UB community as well as the nation.
Advice is given to participants by professional expects in the field of HIV/AIDS as they are also part of these discussions forums. Factors such as inconsistent condom use, alcohol abuse, cross generational and transactional sex are also addressed in detail.
“There‘s a huge demand and hunger for these discussion forums as they mostly assist the youth to make informed decisions and help them to wish Botswana to be a zero transmission nation in the near future, ” said Berger.
She further said that they are currently planning to expand their services to other tertiary institutions that are in need of them.
Commenting on these forums, a final year University of Botswana student, Onalenna Dube, said they play a vital role in behavior change.
”HIV/ AIDS is a global concern; it is either you are infected or affected, these forums are helping us as the youth to make informed decisions,” Dube said. “Now we know that life is a series of choices. You win or lose by the way you choose.”