February is Reproductive Health Month and what better way to draw attention to this month than on the most romantic day of the year!
Reproductive health has many faces, which include aims to raise awareness about the importance of contraception and the prevention of HIV. This is particularly important for our youth. February is also about creating awareness around STIs and condoms.
Our #MyFutureFirst campaign, that forms part of the DREAMS programme, a multi-partnership, focuses on assisting adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in becoming Determined; Resilient; Empowered; AIDS-free; Mentored and Safe (DREAMS) - through targeted health-related interventions. #MyFutureFirst aims to promote the sexual reproductive health and rights of AGYW, by offering literacy and administering contraception in aid of the reduction of unplanned pregnancies and further STI including HIV infection and transmission. These interventions also include HIV testing for AGYW and their male sex partners and cover issues of gender-based violence and human rights.
It is vital for AGYW to be empowered with the knowledge to protect themselves by using contraception if they decide to engage in sex. According to a press release shared by STATS SA in May 2017, the age-specific fertility rate for teenagers was 71 births per 1 000 women aged 15-19, showing little change since 1998. 58,3% of women use some form of contraceptive, and the overall use of modern contraception remains relatively high, with a wide range of methods being utilised. However, 18% of women continue to have an unmet family planning need. The use of the pill, injectable contraceptives and sterilisations has declined since 1998 while the use of male condoms for contraception has increased and now accounts for 15% of the modern contraceptive methods used by women.
These figures illustrate the enormous value of reproductive health campaigns and projects and the need for these to continue.
"Adolescents are expected to negotiate increasingly difficult situations as they mature. This includes discovering and expressing their sexuality. Without the correct advice and care, these young adults may take decisions that put their sexual health at risk. In the South African context, where HIV prevalence is exceptionally high, effective counselling for teenagers is especially important." - Helen Struthers (MSc, MBA, PhD), Anova COO .