THE Southern African HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Services (SAFAIDS) is conducting a comprehensive Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SHRH) program in the country’s hard to reach areas.
By Michael Gwarisa
The program dubbed “Her Choice,” is a one year project currently being offered in the country’s three districts namely Kariba, Mberengwa and Rushinga. It aims at equipping young people with SHRH information as well as teaching them about proper and correct use of contraceptives to avoid unwanted pregnancies, HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
Speaking during a breakfast meeting, SAFAIDS programmes officer Ashley Ngwenya said the teen pregnancy burden was very high owing to numerous reasons chief among them being the lack of information.
“This project is a one year project that intends to open up the discussion around adolescent and young girl and women accessing contraceptives, as well as an opportunity to train 16 young people across the Southern Africa region to become active participants within their sexual reproductive health and rights sphere.
“The correct usage of contraceptives is very important and it’s a discussion of responsibilities and a discussion young people should be having with their parents. So because society, the policy is still restricting that conversation to happen, they are then resorting to accessing these services without the parental knowledge,” said Ngwenya.
She added that the current policy is confusing and blurred as it allows access to services on paper but when young people and adolescents visit health centres, the policy grants powers to the services provider to decide who does and who does not get access to services.
“Another issue is that our policies are very stringent, we talk of access to contraceptives and even information dissemination of these young people that we are targeting. We realise that there is a disharmony between the ministries of health and that of education. The school health policy, the Pregnancy in School policy (P35) which talks about how young people who fall pregnant in school should be treated.
“What we do not realise is that the power of letting young people access services will speak to a lot of other issues in the society that we are facing and one big issue that we can control right is the exposure young people have that then influences them to have easily sexual relations.”
She said the best thing is to empower and equip them to have sex the right way through affording them access to contraceptives.
Merita Tavy (20) and a “Her Choice” Champion from Mberengwa said it was critical to increase contraceptives access to adolescents residing in hard to reach areas.
“Why is it important for us for example I am a young girl. This reduces the pregnancy related risks. Girls and young women are especially at risk of pregnancy problems. Contraception allows them to put off having children until their bodies are fully able to support a pregnancy.
“It can also prevent problems for older women of pregnant related diseases. Contraception reduces the need for abortion. Also prevents unwanted pregnancies. Therefore it reduces cases of unsafe abortion. And also this is very important because it reduces transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. There are children born with HIV who might engage in sexual activities with those without thus transmitting it,” said Merita.
Tariro Chikuni (21) who is also “Her Choice” champion from Rushinga in Mashonaland Central said, “As peer educators we are given children as young as 10 years whom we were trained to talk with about puberty.
“We do not encourage sex among adolescents when we talk about adolescent health. Now that I passed through the cycles of puberty and was taught of menstruation, people older than me now teach me of relationships, and sexual reproductive health. You cannot teach a seven year old of that.”