20 February 2013

Namibia: Ohangwena Youths Observe Condom Day

Eenhana — Youths here led by the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (Nappa) marked the International Condom Day last Thursday.

Nappa, a local non-governmental organisation, in conjunction with Standard Bank, Bank Windhoek and FNB, last Thursday, called on the youths in Ohangwena Region to embrace condom use to prevent HIV and AUDS infections and to promote reproductive health in Namibia.

The call was made during a trainee induction programme for the Eenhana Vocational Training Centre (EVTC) to raise condom awareness as part of activities to also mark International Condom Day which falls on February 13 every year.

Napps's Regional Coordinator in the Ohangwena Region, Risto Mushongo, advised the youths and new trainees at EVTC to seek voluntary HIV testing in order to know their status. He indicated that most of the young girls fall pregnant because they want to prove their fertility. "This perception might encourage young females to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse and avoid using contraceptives so as to prove their fertility. Thus the desire to prove their fertility may have influenced some of the young girls' non-utilisation of contraceptives.

Males also want to prove their virility and do insist girls prove their "love" or commitment to them," he says.

The youths pregnancy rate in the Ohangwena Region is extremely high with 14 percent of 17-year-olds, 35 percent of 19-year-olds and 57 percent of 20-year-olds having given births.

Last year, a Grade 10 learner from the Ongha Secondary School dumped a baby in the bushes that later died. According to Mushongo, statistics in the Ohangwena Region indicate that last year, 1 691 learners dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy. "This means on average 30 children per classroom, Ohangwena region have closed 55 classes in 2012; 57 classes in 2011 and 56 in 2010.

Although, a total of 1, 5 million condoms were used and this number has increased by two million each year since we started sensitization," he says.

He also observed that young people normally forget using condoms, especially when they are excited. "Youths are Namibia's future. They must not ignore their life and should always do their best to protect themselves against HIV and other problems that come with unprotected sexual intercourse," Mushongo advises.

During the EVTC induction programme, which coincided with the International Condom Day, culture and religious beliefs were noted as some of the factors still hampering condom use. Lucia Festus, a 28-year-old cashier at O Save Mini supermarket here says she does not agree with the use of condoms because she is a Christian and that is against her religious beliefs.

"A condom will perhaps protect your body but not your soul," she says.

Jestina Ndahafa (not her real name), 22, a student at the EVTC says it is difficult for a girl to buy condoms because it's still unheard of in the Oshiwambo culture.

"If young girls ask for condoms in a public place they mistake them for sex workers," she adds pointing out that more sensitisation has to be carried out.

Saima Nangolo from the Ministry of Health and Social Service agrees that there are some constraints against the use of condoms but her ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of National Service, Youth, Sport and Culture are initiating several efforts to overcome such challenges. "We collaborate with the media, local leaders and regional health counselors to increase condom use awareness, "she says adding that they try to avail condoms everywhere.

This is made possible through Nappa that walso distributes them to regions, schools, colleges, shebeens and hospitals.

Twenty five low and middle income countries in Africa including Namibia, have managed to halve their rate of new HIV infections since 2010, according to the latest UNAIDS report on the state of the global pandemic.

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