Durban - MEC for the Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, has urged communities to be safe this Valentine's Day.
She said young and older couples need should not lose themselves in the hazy romance of candle-lit dinners and the requisite red roses, chocolate, wine, good food and laughter that characterises Valentine's Day.
“KwaZulu-Natal is a very youthful Province. Yet, young people are the most exposed to sexually-transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, and other social ills like unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. We remain concerned that young girls aged between 15 – 24 in particular, are still exposed to HIV/AIDS, mainly due to inter-generational relationships. Therefore, we have to reinforce messages about safe sexual practices. By the way, unplanned pregnancy and the spread of sexually-transmitted infections don’t only happen to young people, but the older generations too, as well as among those who have one night stands or so-called casual sexual encounters - also known as situationships," she said.
Simelane-Zulu said it was extremely unfortunate that despite all the different effective contraceptive methods that the department had on offer free of charge,
people still have unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.
"In fact, at least 10% of all babies in the province are born to mothers who are aged 18 and below, which is a problem. We say it is a problem because at that age, physiologically and psychologically, they are not ready to have a child. Secondly, it becomes harder for young women to continue pursuing an education and ultimately realise their full potential," she said.
She said they were also urging young men to get circumcised, and use condoms during every sexual encounter.
"We are also pleading with men to play a more active role in encouraging their partners to choose a family planning method that is suitable for them. Prevention of pregnancy isn’t the sole responsibility of women. We are also appealing to men to desist from promiscuity, and to always use protection, so that they safeguard the health and well-being of their partners," she said.
MEC Simelane-Zulu has also revealed for the very first time the department’s advanced plans to unveil brand-new advertising billboards that are aimed at creating sexual awareness among young people.
“These billboards will carry new, fresh, repackaged and youthful messaging to promote HIV prevention, prevention of unplanned pregnancy, family planning, and safe sexual practices. We want to ensure that we reach young people so that we can begin to engender behavioural change. These billboards will be erected in strategic places in order to catch their attention," the MEC said.
For those without a partner on Valentine's Day, the MEC said: “We want people to know that it’s not the end of the world if they find themselves without a romantic partner on Valentine’s Day. For young people in particular, they can use the time productively, to catch up on their studies; read a book; go out and watch a movie; or take a walk along the beach with friends.”