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Female students’ concerns about, and management of, their sexual and reproductive health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

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Literature on sexual and reproductive health concerns of university students is rare, and yet there is evidence that university students have concerns and misconceptions about sexual and reproductive health. The study presented two aims. Firstly, it aimed to investigate University of KwaZulu-Natal female students ‘concerns about sexual and reproductive health. It also aimed to investigate how female students manage their sexual and reproductive health while on campus. Four in-depth interviews and six focus groups discussions were conducted. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. The findings of the study indicate that female students had numerous concerns related to sexual and reproductive health. In the study many students were anxious about contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis. Their fear about contracting such STIs was that, they affect woman fertility. Further, some students were very scared of contracting HIV because they believed that their sexual partners would reject them if they were HIV positive. Students were also concerned about HIV related stigma that exists in their home community and on campus. Female students were not only worried about contracting STIs but also falling pregnant while they are students. Many female students reported using hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills, injectable contraceptives and implants, to avoid pregnancy. However, some students had misconceptions about female contraceptives. They believed that hormonal contraceptives would affect their future fertility. Many students had a strong desire to have children in the future and linked their identity very strongly to childbearing. Another issue raised by students in the study was that of confidentiality at the campus health facilities, stating that their privacy was not sufficiently protected when accessing sexual and reproductive health services on campus and at their community clinics. Although many university students had some understanding about sexual and reproductive health, stigma and discrimination about accessing sexual health services such as testing as well as negative attitudes towards contraceptives, remain an issue. These can put students at risk of poor sexual and reproductive health. It is very important that young people understand what sexual and reproductive health means since such knowledge guides an individual’s own sexual behaviour and practices. Support programmes for sexual and reproductive health which include information and service provision, need to address all underlying issues faced by female university students.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.