National Aids Commission (NAC) has said loose behaviour of some learners in self-boarding tertiary institutions is posing a challenge to HIV and Aids fight in the country.
Due to infrastructure challenges and cost of accommodation in institutions of higher learning, some learners resort to self-boarding.
However, self-boarding girls are at a higher risk of experiencing early pregnancies or early marriages as they engage in sex work to sustain themselves while away from parents.
According to NAC spokesperson Karen Msiska, the number of self-boarding girls engaged in multiple sex partnerships is on the rise.
He said: “They engage in this behaviour to support themselves but get exposed to HIV and Aids. The students also become a threat to others as there are high chances of transmitting the disease to their fellow learners.”
A recent study has also found that boys and girls tend to share housing and chores and live as families. Although this seems like a good set up, the housemates often end up engaging in unprotected sex because of lack of parental advice and supervision.
Msiska said the development is frustrating the fight against HIV and Aids and there is need for the learners to be responsible and protect themselves.
“Efforts to fight the disease are being hampered because most of the older men they sleep with demand unprotected sex and the students, who are in need of money to support themselves, do not have the bargaining power,” he said.
The 2017-2018 education report in Malawi indicates that almost 4.3 percent of girls in the country dropped out of school due to sexual malpractice that leads to pregnancy.
In an interview, Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe said there is need for the country to construct boarding facilities for the girls so that they have proper accommodation.
He added that those in self-boarding should be categorised as a group at risk and government should invest in interventions targeting the group.
Said Jobe: “We need to come up with HIV and Aids messages targeting this group. There should also be youth-friendly reproductive health services for them.”
Another education activist George Mindano recently told The Nation that if the country had proper structures where female learners are well taken care of, these challenges will end.
“And if we are to just do a small comparison between girls from a normal boarding school and those from self-boarding, the latter will have more victims than the former due to discipline issues,” he said.