TSHWANE. - A youth camp with the theme: "Together taking responsibility to end HIV infection; 'No' to teenage pregnancy, 'No' to discrimination, and 'No' to gender based Violence" was recently held at the Stoney Ridge camp site in Magaliesburg.
The camp was facilitated by the Gauteng branch of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and brought together 20 boys and 30 girls from the Ekurhuleni district, which has the highest HIV prevalence in the Gauteng province.
Nthabiseng Marikana, a TAC community mobiliser in Katlehong told the group how they ran an intervention programme at the OR Tambo Secondary School because of the high rate of teenage pregnancy at the school. After they ran the programme teenage pregnancies reduced and they developed good relations with the school and other stakeholders in the community.
The district mobiliser coordinator, Rebecca Malambu, said the programme started in 2011 when they placed two peer educators at Tsakane, Duduza and Kwa-Thema who educated and engaged the youth on issues around puberty, contraception, HIV and human rights. "We also build capacity of non-governmental organisations that work with young people and also advocated at clinics to ensure that young boys and girls have access to health services in a user-friendly and professional environment," said Malambu.
At the camp the youth participated in talks about health issues and services, and took part in artistic performances depicting what they learned.
A TAC volunteer and peer educator from Duduza, Nomthandazo Khumalo, shared her experiences of poor youth health services at the local clinic. She told the group about rude nurses and youths who were turned away from clinics, and then educated them on how they approach the clinic and resolved the issue with management. She also emphasised that some youths have a negative attitude, and abuse their rights, or are stubborn and disrespectful to clinic staff.
"We aim to empower the youth with the skills they need to go out there and implement what they learnt, so they are able to differentiate between right and wrong," said Bonginkosi Mthembu-Moloi, a capacity building officer for the programme.
"We are teaching the girls to use contraceptives and also to know their rights when they fall pregnant and have access to youth friendly services and avoid 'back door' doctors. We want young boys to advocate for more medical male circumcision, but also teach them that it is not a cure, but does reduce a man's chances of contracting HIV by 60 percent.
"The aim of the programme is to ensure that the youth have information about their sexual reproductive health rights and to be able to have access to the youth-friendly services necessary to make healthy and informed choices about their own lives," said Bonginkosi.
The camp was made possible with the financial assistance from the Ford Foundation. - OurHealth/Health-e News Service
Mishack Mahlangu is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Tshwane health district in Gauteng.