While romantic dinners and marriage proposals are likely to set the tone for intimate rendezvous on Valentine's Day, KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has urged young people to delay their "sexual debut" "while love is in the air".
He said they should abstain from sex for as long as possible, adding that "this is key to helping them realise their full potential and to safeguard their positive educational and health outcomes".
"February is generally known as the month of love. And, with Valentine's Day upon us, we know that young people might be tempted to do things that might have negative long-term effects for them, such as unsafe sex. Although most of the young people at tertiary institutions are disease free, they are at high risk of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV," he warned in a statement on Tuesday.
Dhlomo said that national campaigns such as First Things First, DREAMS, and She Conquers, will continue to be accelerated in the province, to help young people make informed choices about their sexual reproductive health.
"We are particularly concerned with young women, aged 15 and 24, who are at high risk of contracting HIV due to intergenerational and transactional relationships with sugar daddies and the so-called 'Blessers'."
He said research has shown that older men who have had years of sexual experience - known as Blessers - are the ones who infect young women with HIV.
"The young women then, in turn, infect boys their own age," he said.
He added: "On Valentine's Day and beyond, we are saying to young women in particular, the men who sleep with them do not do so out of love, but out of lust. You don't need someone who will come into your life and yield negative results. We are intensifying these campaigns and will continue engaging with young people," he said.
Dhlomo encouraged those who cannot abstain from sex to rather use dual protection - a combination of male and female contraception.
"I plead with you to be responsible for your health. With the range of free health services available to the public, anyone who falls pregnant or gets infected with a sexually transmitted infection will only have themselves to blame."
Dhlomo's Valentine's Day warning came during STI/Condom Week from February 10 to 16.