A number of students defaulted on their Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment during the initial phases of the Covid-19 induced national lockdown as access to health services was much more difficult than before, it has been heard.
Speaking on a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) a presenter from one of the local colleges said there were many cases of students defaulting on their HIV treatment since they could not get to their service providers easily.
"Some of our students who take ARV drugs defaulted their treatment due to restrictions in movement during lockdown,” said the presenter.
Other representatives said access to contraceptives for students during the lockdown also seemed to be a challenge judging by the number of students who came back to school pregnant.
"Students raised concerns saying that they could not get access to contraceptives during the lockdown. It seems they have easier access to such services when at school than when at home,” said the other rep.
The presenters said the distribution of condoms in hostels and toilets was critical in preventing pregnancy and the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs) to college students.
Such services, however, are harder to come by for students at home since most of them do not want to be known that they are engaging in sexual activities.
They also urged female students to make use of different reproductive health facilities provided at the Youth Friendly Facility at every clinic.
Of concern was the menstrual health management issue presented by the ZNFPC Acting Provincial Manager Herbert Chikosi who highlighted the common challenges faced by females during menstruation.
"Girls face harassment especially in schools when they miss lessons during their menstruation and are even given nicknames. That amounts to harassment which must be fought as it has a negative bearing on the girl child’s self-esteem," said Chikosi.
Participants agreed that it was important to develop online Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) education in light of the Covid-19 induced new normal and the restrictive physical conduct involved.
"We are continuously giving students lectures on SRH using face to face lectures and also online means so as to keep students informed,” said another participant.
Institutions who attended the workshop included ZNPFC, Plan International, MyAge Zimbabwe Trust, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Masvingo Polytechnic, Masvingo Teachers' College and Zvandiri AfricAid.