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Durban - A declaration by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi that condoms be distributed at schools – where parents agree – as part of preventing the spread of HIV/Aids has elicited mixed reactions from education stakeholders.
Motsoaledi said in Pietermaritzburg last week that there was proof that, when young people used condoms in their first sexual encounter, it was likely they would continue to use condoms when having sex.
The distribution of condoms would be accompanied with HIV and Aids counselling to pupils along with other health programmes, he said.
This programme is part of the soon-to-be-launched Integrated School Health Programme initiated jointly by the departments of basic education and health.
However, some political parties say they are against the distribution of condoms at schools.
African Christian Democratic Party MPL member of KwaZulu-Natal legislature Jo Ann Downs said the move was linked to a report that girls were contracting HIV at 14 and boys at 19.
However, Downs was adamant that giving condoms out at schools was not going to solve the problem.
“It is really important to delay sexual activity for as long as possible. Girls who are 14 are under age and many have sugar daddies, according to the local health department.
“We should be trying to prosecute older men. It is counter-productive to give out condoms to underage children which sends a message about early sexual activity,” she said.
The IFP also said it was opposed to the “sex education plan”, saying the government seemed to have forgotten that the age of sexual consent was 16.
The IFP’s Alfred Mpontshane said giving condoms to children encouraged them to break the law.
“HIV counselling in schools creates a problem because pupils would incriminate themselves by seeking counselling.
“When it comes to HIV testing in schools, parents should be deeply concerned. We believe in voluntary testing. Testing cannot be done on a captive audience. Even the ethics of research does not allow that,” said Mpontshane.
The Governing Body Foundation said it would not deny young people access to medical advice and health assistance but the move should be carefully considered.
“We would welcome a carefully considered and managed programme that resulted in an improvement in the health of the nation and especially of young people of South Africa,” said Tim Gordon, national chief executive of the foundation. However, Gordon insisted that safeguards were essential during all phases of the programme.
It was encouraging that Motsoaledi had given an undertaking that the intervention would be part of a broader initiative on health issues, he said.
“The foundation is supportive of the parental approval requirement but would like some clarity about the concept of a trained health professional,” he said.
“This sensitive and important role should be in the hands of qualified and registered medical personnel and not simply someone recruited for the task and given a questionable, limited training course before being rushed into our schools to deal with our children,” said Gordon. - The Mercury