The Division of Student Health Services at the University of Pretoria (UP) hosted a seminar on sexual and reproductive health aimed at health care practitioners providing primary health care to students in tertiary institutions on Friday, 30 June. What made this event on the Hatfield Campus unique was the fact that it focused specifically on the treatment of students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and the often-overlooked conditions that practitioners should be aware of in order to provide the best possible service to them.
Dr Matete Madiba, Director of the Department of Student Affairs at UP, welcomed the guests to the event. She said that in today's busy world she cherishes every moment that she is able to simply sit down, listen and learn. 'I know that the saying "Knowledge is power" is a cliché, but it remains very true. In our context, however, we should also realise that the right knowledge gives us access to the right kind of power. I truly believe that the knowledge we will gain at today's seminar will increase our understanding of some of our students' unique needs and empower us to do our part for those students who come to us for help,' she said.
Dr Madiba's warm welcome was followed by a number of speakers who shared valuable information with the attendees. Sr May, from the Andrology Unit at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, spoke about sexual health problems experienced by young male students. She was followed by Dr Christi Kruger from the Centre for Sexualities, Aids and Gender at UP, who gave a talk about non-conventional sexual activities, which was followed by a lively Q & A session. Building on the momentum created by Dr Kruger's talk, Dr Oscar Radebe, a medical practitioner from the Anova Health Institute, gave an engaging talk about the management of sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis and HIV resulting from non-conventional sexual activities.
After a tea break, during which discussions on the morning's topics continued, a UP student gave a talk on non-conventional sexual activities. This was followed by a presentation by Prof Elna McIntosch, a sexologist from the DISA Clinic in Sandton, and a session by Dr Andre van der Westhuizen, a practicing gynaecologist, who spoke about his own experiences with the needs of patients from sexual minority groups.
In closing, Sr Kholeka from Student Health Services said that at UP we understand that we have to produce knowledge and be relevant to the young people who come to this institution to learn and build their future. She explained that for many of them, their time here represents their first real taste of unfettered freedom and that many of them want to experiment with this new found state of affairs. Unfortunately, experimental behaviour sometimes has unwanted consequences, at which point these students will need help from experienced, informed professionals. The caring staff at the Division of Student Health Services believe in empowering themselves with knowledge so that they can always provide the best possible service and support to the students who come to them for help. 'Seminars like this are an integral part of empowering the Division's staff in achieving this,' she concluded.
Sr Hannelie Coetzee, also from Student Health Services, closed the proceedings with a word of thanks to all the speakers, sponsors and attendees who contributed to making the Division's first awareness event such a resounding success.