Over the past few weeks, media coverage has gravitated towards the potential follies of youth. This is unsurprising given that a new year means new beginnings for many young people still struggling to negotiate the dawn of adult independence.
However not all of this coverage has engaged with HIV where it could have.
The New Age and the Daily Sun highlighted HIV as it related to the Kwa-Zulu Natal Health MEC’s efforts at establishing a campaign to educate young women on the dangers of cross-generational sex or ‘sugar daddies’.
But Sunday’s (22 January) City Press featured a full page dedicated to the health risks of alcohol abuse among youngsters which was devoid of any mention of HIV.
As hoards of fledgling graduates flock to tertiary learning institutions, magazines and newspaper feature sections are dispensing sage advice for “surviving” the transition successfully.
Sadly, this advice appears to be largely limited to coping with unruly room or housemates and balancing social activities (like sports and drama) with academic obligation. Yet the two biggies that can really wreck an education – alcohol and sex – have everyone tight-lipped.
Perhaps editors and journalists are weary of drawing direct associations between aspiring young adults and excessive boozing and fornication. This is no doubt influenced by the notion that doting parents are unlikely to be thrilled by articles that implicate their children in binge drinking and sexual risk-taking.
The Sowetan’s borderline-pornographic coverage of police officers bonking (in their words) certainly has, as the editor predicted, got the nation talking.
But forget drawing any real attention to police negligence or failures of the system, the gratuitous material got tongues wagging about one thing more than any other - sex.
And this is not necessarily a bad thing. In the context of our HIV epidemic, it is about time we have a public and open debate about sex and particularly about risky sex.
But this is not it.
The New Age have chosen to highlight striking students’ demand for condoms among a list of other grievances that were laid before the management of Durban’s University of Technology (DUT) during protests that began last week.
This raises questions about the perceptions of government-issue condoms.
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