THE WITS University South African Medical Student Association (SAMSA) tried to raise awareness this week among students about their sexual and reproductive health and what they can do to maintain a healthy sexual lifestyle.

SAMSA hosted a talk on Wednesday, 30 August at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The chairperson of the Sexual Reproductive Justice Coalition, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, was the keynote speaker.

Mofokeng said students need to take the initiative to empower and take ownership of their sexual and reproductive health. “Health literacy in South Africa is inadequate because many young people never had comprehensive sexuality education,” said Mofokeng.

Chairperson of SASMA Lerato Mahakoe said, “We find that a lot of people are embarrassed to talk about their vaginas, never mind even touch or look at their own vaginas.”

Sister Bongiwe Sithole from Campus Health and Wellness Centre (CHWC) primary health care stressed the need for students to pay attention to their bodies. “As young people you need to take care of yourself, from the time you start menstruating,” she said.

“You need to know your body and maintain good hygiene. If there is anything abnormal that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to come to campus health to find out what’s
happening. CHWC provides student-centered services: HIV/AIDS and STDs testing, male circumcision, pap smears at a nominal fee andcontraception,” said Sithole.

CHWC offers many services but a gynecologist and Wits associate lecturer, Dr Lusanda Shimange-Matsose, expressed concern that not many students make use of it. “It’s about people accessing the public health sector because people don’t think it’s for them. It’s not that health is not aff ordable, it’s about the decisions you’re making for your health. Every campus has a wellness clinic, but how many actually go [to CHWC]?” said Shimange-Matsose.

“The internet isn’t going to answer all your questions, at some point you need to have that examination. Be comfortable with you first so when you’re in front of a health practitioner you know which questions to ask. We need to take women’s health outside of the classroom and take it to the streets,” said Shimange-Matsose.

Thapelo Masie, a fifth-year medical student, said there is a need to increase sexual and reproductive health particularly among males and encourage increasing the use of condoms. “[Males] don’t love using contraceptives, saying ‘oja ka nama’ (having sex without a condom) and I feel like they need to get taught more,” said Masie.



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