HIV-prevention measures on a university campus in South Africa – perceptions, practices and needs of undergraduate medical students
Background: Young adults such as university students are considered to be a key population for HIV-prevention efforts. This study aimed to determine the perceptions, practices and needs of undergraduate medical students regarding HIV-prevention measures available on campus.
Methods: The research design was descriptive cross-sectional. Data were collected using an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire distributed to all 745 undergraduate medical students in the School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Free State, South Africa, of whom 470 responded (63.1%).
Results: Almost half (45.5%) of all respondents across the five academic years had received information about available HIV-prevention measures on campus. Most reported that information had been received during lectures (59.7%) and only 24.2% from the local health clinic on campus. The findings also revealed that 14.2% of students had used at least one prevention measure in the past, while the majority of students (70.2%) used abstinence as an HIV-prevention measure. A large percentage of all the students (47.6%) had been tested for HIV before the start of the study. Two-thirds (67%) of students indicated that the current HIV-prevention services on campus were not sufficient.
Conclusion: Medical students received HIV-prevention information as part of their curriculum but this was deemed not to be sufficient. This study suggests that tertiary education institutions should evaluate the effectiveness of strategies currently in place for the distribution and awareness of HIV-prevention measures and sexual health issues affecting students, using a student-centred approach.
Keywords: abstinence, campus health services, female condom, HIV testing, HIV promotional material, male condom