A new study has shown that female students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) are not using health services for fear of stigmatisation. These include getting contraception and treatment for sexual abuse.

The research was presented by the university’s HIV/AIDS Coordinator, Nomonde Magantolo at a seminar at the institution’s Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.

Health practitioners at the UKZN’s HIV/AIDS Programmes have raised concerns that most students do not use the health services that are available to them.

Addressing academics, medical practitioners and students, Magantolo says statistics show that the number of female students who fell pregnant in 2018 is higher than the previous year.

Magantolo says this shows that students do not make use of the family planning services provided on campuses. She says research shows that young people in general still find it challenging to access sexual and reproductive health information and services, especially at public health facilities due to stigma and the age difference between them and nurses.

The head of the university’s Clinical Services, Muzi Mthembu says the institution has also approached the Department of Health to allow them to initiate ARVs on campus.

Mthembu says the department is working very hard to ensure that students prioritise their health and their future.

“We have approached  the Department of Health to allow or credit us to able to do the initiation of the anti-viral drugs within our campuses in fact we want to do everything on site, initiation monitoring and also the record keeping, so we are working towards that,” says Mthembu.

However, some students say they still find it hard to access campus and public health services due to the stigma and age gap between them and health care workers. Others say students need to learn to be responsible.

Meanwhile, the university says it wants to encourage its students to make use of Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)  drugs that will prevent a person being infected with HIV.