Situated in the heart of South Africa, the University of Pretoria is not just a hub of academic excellence but also a target for Cupid’s arrows. This article aims to dissect students’ romantic relationships at Tuks, delving into the chasm of long-term commitments, casual flings, and the ever-elusive hookups in relation to the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Students currently enrolled at the university engage in various romantic relationships, characterised mainly by commitment and intensity. Long-term commitments usually have emotional engagement, discussions of future goals and continual growth. Casual relationships and hookups, on the other hand, are generally short term, lacking emotional intimacy whilst being more centred around physical attraction. 

The student demographics on campus can only be described as a mosaic of different races, cultures and ethnicities. These factors, as well as age and course, can influence relationship status. Analysing the statistics of these demographics provides valuable insights into how this translates into the dynamics of romantic relationships. For instance, students pursuing demanding courses may opt for non-committal relationships, considering time constraints. Cultural and societal expectations may also affect the type of relationship students seek. Students coming from more traditional backgrounds may be more reluctant to date casually. According to the American Journal of Health Education, “religious attendance and religious belief played a significant role in distinguishing between those who have and have not participated in hooking up behaviours”.

The type of relationship students engage in has a direct correlation with risky sexual behaviour. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health in 2023 regarding sexual behaviour and attitudes, research suggests that students in long-term relationships tend to exhibit more responsible sexual behaviour, including regular STD checks and condom use. Hookups, however, are associated with higher instances of risky behaviour due to their spontaneous nature. However, this does not mean that hookup culture should be avoided, but rather that it is important that those hooking up should prioritise their health and practice safe sex practices. 

The type of relationship frequented amongst students similarly correlates to the spread of STDs. South African universities, like many globally, face challenges related to the spread of STIs. Factors such as limited sexual health education, stigma, and barriers to accessing healthcare services contribute to this issue. This is further impacted by South Africa’s high HIV infection rate, with University World News indicating that 3.4% of South African university students have tested positive in the last decade. By analysing the prevalent types of student relationships, we can gain insights into potential avenues for targeted interventions to address the spread of STIs.

To combat this issue. The universities should implement the following measures: comprehensive and accessible sexual health education. Universities should prioritise comprehensive sexual health education programmes to empower students with knowledge about safe practices, consent, and the importance of regular health check-ups. Furthermore, ensuring easy access to sexual health services on campuses can contribute to the early detection, treatment, and prevention of STIs. Confidential and non-judgmental services should be made available to all students.

The University of Pretoria, known for its vibrant campus life, has traditions that can influence the dynamics of love. With the interconnectedness of love and laughter, campus may be where love bugs rendezvous; but it may also be a potential breeding ground for bugs that are a little harder to shake without a good dose of antibiotics. Remember, safe practices and regular health check-ups are as essential as Jollys on a Thursday night.

Aleksa Kruger
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