THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department launched a new tertiary education health awareness programme to fight unplanned pregnancy, cancer and illegal termination of pregnancy among students. Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu is determined to ensure that no student drops out of college due to unplanned pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infection, or complications related to botched termination of pregnancy or cancer.Amid much fanfare, Simelane-Zulu launched the department’s tertiary education health awareness programme at the University of Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus under the theme #Seize The Moment: Take Charge of Youth Healthy Future; Our Moment, Our Future.The initiative saw scores of students being tested for HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, TB, and blood-sugar levels, while others underwent pap smears.In launching the programme, the MEC expressed her concern that at least 40% of KZN’s estimated tertiary education students, especially young women, are reported to engage in unprotected multiple partner sexual relations — heightening their chances of falling pregnant and/or contracting HIV. This is according to the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS).The MEC said, therefore, that providing healthcare services, and promoting long-term contraceptives, will help ensure that students begin to look after their health. The family planning/contraception arm of the campaign (“Smart Choices”) will aim to first change behaviours, then introduce and provide access to solutions in the form of a range of contraceptive methods.“Through this programme that we are launching, we are taking comprehensive health education services to the students, from testing for HIV/Aids to provision of medication, to making family planning options available, and screening for cancer. We believe this is necessary for tertiary education because students do not necessarily go out and seek these services because it’s not always that convenient for them to do so. So, we’ve taken a decision to go to them. We are going to be rolling this programme out to other universities, universities of technology and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.”Simelane-Zulu also revealed that the department would be taking the programme to the University of Zululand next, before rolling it out to other institutions.“It’s a programme that is going to be continuous, and we expect students to participate in it because it’s in their best interest. “What we’ve seen so far is an interest from students, and they’re quite happy about it and have requested us to come back. “We’re quite encouraged, because the services that are provided here are really needed by the students. The reality of life today is that students are exposed to risky sexual behaviours, and it’s not for us to judge them, but to provide knowledge and make sure that they are safe, because students are the future of this country. If we don’t take care of them, we’re not going to have leaders in the future.” — Supplied.