At a recent meeting in Botswana, a high-level group of education and sexual reproductive health experts from Eastern and Southern Africa highlighted the need for good quality, gender-sensitive sexuality education that prepares adolescents for puberty and relationships and prevents unintended pregnancy and HIV. They also stressed that countries need to provide improved access to youth-friendly health services, which includes contraception, confidential HIV and STI testing, HIV prevention, treatment and care, as well as safe pregnancy and delivery and safe options in the case of unintended pregnancy. Child-marriage and gender-based violence were singled out as current impediments for adolescents and young people realising their right to education and health.
The participants also called on the region's health and education ministers to sign a new commitment to work closely together to improve access to high quality sexuality education and health services. This commitment, due to be signed in December 2013 ahead of the International Conference on AIDS in Africa, will demand that countries look at young people's needs with more openness, and be willing to re-examine social norms about young people's sexuality.
The meeting, held in Gabarone, Botswana from 30-31 July, was the first face-to-face meeting of this high-level group, chaired by Professor Sheila Tlou, regional directors of UNAIDS and a former Member of Parliament and Minister of Health of Botswana. The First Lady of Tanzania, Mama Selma Kikwete, opened the meeting.
We will work hand in hand with young people, parents and communities at large to ensure that our leaders put their wellbeing at the centre of national agendas and resource allocation.
- Sheila Tlou, Director, Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa