File picture: Pixabay
Doctors  Without Borders (Médecins sans Frontières) has appealed to the Basic Education Department to speed up its rollout of sexual and reproductive health services to high school learners.

The programme has been on hold for nearly two years.

In 2017, the National Policy on HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and tuberculosis was approved by the cabinet and made provisions for, among others, learners 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, STDs and TB, and was based on the best available evidence, coupled with wide consultation over a number of years.

MSF said on Thursday that pupils and teachers at its established school health programme in King Cetshwayo District, KwaZulu-Natal, were frustrated at the impact of the delay of the rollout 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 department to release clear guidelines on the implementation of school-based 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 the time of publication.

At the time the policy was approved, it was estimated that 7 million people were HIV positive, with about 270000 new HIV infections and 450000 new TB infections annually.