An evaluation of the knowledge, attitude and practices of South African university students regarding the use of emergency contraception and of art as an advocacy tool
AbstractBackground: This study assessed the knowledge and use of emergency contraception (EC) against the background of current sexual practices
among a multi-racial student population at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In addition, the use of art as an advocacy tool in promoting awareness of EC and related sexual issues was also evaluated. Methods: A random sample of 162 students with equal representation of race and gender was interviewed. The questionnaire used addressed knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding contraception, with emphasis on EC and current sexual practices. It was administered by trained interviewers at three different sites at the DUT, where the Kara Walker image was also displayed on banners by Art for Humanity (AFH). Results: Over 77% of participants indicated that EC was some sort of birth control or contraceptive method. Only 51% of the respondents felt that EC
was a good form of contraception and 27% of all students indicated that it should not be used at all. However, given a choice, 66% of African students would use it, compared to 46% Indian, 31% coloured and 52% white students. The various levels of undergraduate study (i.e. first to third year) did not impact on the level of knowledge of or attitude towards the use of EC among students. Students had health and social concerns, including that if more men were informed about EC, they may use it to pressure women into having unprotected sex. Over 90% of students knew that EC did not provide protection from HIV, AIDS and STDs. Of the 162 students questioned, only 21% had seen the Kara Walker poster and their responses to the banner were varied. While a few students thought that it was an inappropriate portrayal of women, most students who saw the banner thought it was effective in drawing attention to the consequences of unsafe sexual practices.
Conclusion: It is imperative that concise information and pre- and post-counselling be provided by health care professionals to empower individuals at tertiary institutions to make informed choices with respect to reproductive health. Proper dissemination of information will create awareness and enhance wider acceptance and the use of the arts as an advocacy tool may further promote health education.