11 January 2013

South Africa: Youth Health Issues Under the Spotlight

Bloemfontein — In December last year, a National Youth Camp was hosted here by the Department of Social Development to get young people talking about the health and social issues they face, and to help them find solutions to these challenges.

The Department of Health was one of the key role players at the event and provided information on the services they offer the youth and also discussed challenges they experience. During the discussions, issues such as teenage pregnancy, talking to parents about sex, HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STI), termination of pregnancy (TOP), contraceptives and youth-friendly services were discussed and possible solutions were noted and put into the camp resolutions.

One of the problems they identified was that some of the services clashed with cultural beliefs. For example, some youths noted that in their culture, termination of pregnancy is considered a sin, while others argued that it is necessary to reduce unwanted pregnancy and the rate of abandoned babies by teenage mothers.

“The objective of this dialogue is to provide information on issues affecting the youth,” said Nurse Lomile Mathe, a coordinator for Youth and School Health in the Mangaung Metro. “As a health department we are aware that the youth don’t have enough information on problems affecting them, young people don’t use health services causing unnecessary teenage pregnancy and infections.

“These discussions also provide us with views and suggestions from the youth to show us what the department can do to improve the services in order to be youth friendly,” said Mathe.

Young people noted that they are not ignorant but they fear using the services because of negative attitudes from healthcare providers.

“The sessions were motivating and made me realise that there are better alternatives when it comes to youth problems,” said Palesa Monyako, a 23-year-old who attended the event. Another youth, Paul Moloi said: “The dialogue was an eye opener for some of us and showed that we must face and challenge our fears and make the difference in our community.”

One of the resolutions of the Youth Camp was to facilitate dialogue in communities that will allow discussions between parents and youth about issues that affect them.

Thamsanqa Majola is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from the Thabo Mofutsanyana health district in the Free State.

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