'Speed up roll-out of critical sexual, reproductive health services to pupils'
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In 2017, the National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB was approved by cabinet and made provision for, among others, school pupils as young as 12 to have access to condoms.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga had said it was part of a national effort in responding to HIV, STIs and TB, and was based on the best available evidence coupled with wide consultation over a number of years.
MSF yesterday said pupils and teachers at its established school health programme in King Cetshwayo District, KZN, were frustrated at the impact of the delay of the roll-out of the policy: “One of the letter writers is Thandiwe Shembe, a parent and teacher who feels ‘it’s a good thing that services like HIV testing go to schools, because we as parents might find it awkward to take our children to the hospitals.
"And teenagers have their own problems as they are growing up and maybe they can't approach us as parents because they are afraid of the reaction.'"
MSF is now making an urgent call on the DBE to release clear guidelines on the implementation of school-based SRH services, ensuring that these instructions reflect learner preferences and the experience of existing school health programmes,” MSF said.
The department did not respond to questions by deadline.
At the time the policy was approved, it was estimated that seven million people were HIV-positive, with about 270 000 new HIV infections and 450 000 new TB infections annually.
The policy allowed for pupils to have discreet access to male and female condoms and information on how to use them.
“In June 2017, the DBE released a policy committing to provide high school learners with comprehensive sexual education and direct health services at schools.
"Eight months to that date, MSF alerted the media to our concerns over DBE’s failure to provide implementation guidance on the national policy on HIV, STIs and TB, as it... put learners at risk of contracting HIV and STIs, and limits them from accessing health services,” MSF said.