As South Africa inaugurates STI/Condom and Pregnancy Awareness Week, which runs from February 6 to 10, the nation engages in a vital conversation about sexual health.
South Africa, with 7.5 million of its population living with HIV, has seen significant strides in combating the virus.
Since 2010, new infections and deaths from HIV have plummeted by 50% and 73%, respectively. Data from the end of 2021 indicates that an impressive 94% of people living with HIV are aware of their status, and 74% of that group have begun antiretroviral treatment (ART), with the majority achieving viral suppression.
Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo, visited the South Cape TVET College in Beaufort West on Friday, February 2, to talk to about 250 students about sexual and reproductive health, marking the start of STI/Condom and Pregnancy Awareness Week.
Accompanied by various stakeholders such as Right to Care and Sexual Partners in Health, the minister launched the Higher Health’s First Things First health activation campaign, which aims to foster open conversations about sexual health on college campuses.
In response to the discomfort and stigma many young people face in seeking sexual and reproductive health services at traditional facilities, a special Youth Zone will provide a safe and judgement-free environment for free sexual and reproductive health services.
Starting on February 15 at the local Thusong Centre, this includes family planning, emergency contraception, STI screening and treatment, condoms, and more, every Thursday from 2pm to 4pm.
These efforts are timely as South Africa enters Reproductive Health Month in February, raising awareness about the vital role it plays in promoting a healthier society, especially for young people.
Addressing the pressing need for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services in the Central Karoo, the event underscored the importance of equipping youth with the knowledge and skills essential for leading healthy lives.
In addition, the SRC chairperson of the South Cape College Beaufort West Campus, Sinawo Quvame, spoke about the importance of advocacy in youth matters, emphasising its contribution to responsible citizenship.
Mbombo highlighted the significance of these engagements, stressing that sexual and reproductive health is an integral aspect that affects not only physical and emotional well-being, but also social stability and economic well-being. She advocated for continued collaboration to build healthier and happier communities.
Furthermore, additional services will be provided in the community, including emergency contraception access at the offices of Right to Care and a private nurse offering emergency contraception at the private practice of Dr Kritzinger, pointed to the commitment to providing accessible and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for the community.
ADDITIONAL SERVICES IN THE COMMUNITY (from February 12 onwards):
Right to Care: Residents can access emergency contraception at their offices (100 Bird Street, Beaufort West) between Mondays and Fridays, 2pm–4pm.
Private Practice of Dr Kritzinger: A private nurse will available during the week between 8am and 5pm at 80 Nuwe Street for emergency contraception as well. Bookings are essential and the nurse, Sr Pienaar, can be contacted at 072 725 1418.