BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA
SAfAIDS, in partnership with several government departments has launched the first youth adolescent clinic in Rushinga district in an effort to curb the rise in pregnancies and new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among youths.
The Tanaka SAfAIDS Clinic is part of an adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights (ASRHR) programme funded by the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency,
which seeks to achieve improved ASRHR/HIV outcomes for children and young people aged between five and 24 years.
Speaking to journalists soon after the official launch of the facility on Friday, SAfAIDS executive director Lois Chingandu said the programme was a response to young people’s calls for a separate youth-friendly platform to deal with health issues.
“For so many years, different models were tried, starting with adolescent corners in ordinary clinics, others tried youth-friendly centres, but we know [after] hearing from young people themselves that they have been asking for a stand-alone service,” Chingandu said.
“They have been telling us about the discomfort of sitting in the same queue with adults or being attended to by adult nurses, who in their eyes look like their parents and often ask many questions and judge them.”
The SAfAIDS boss added that the new space, which will also equip young people with vocational skills and recreational services, is a safe haven for teens to open up and gain prerequisite knowledge.
“A health centre in a district like this is both a rallying point and a safe place for young people because when we started working in Rushinga, we realised how much teenage pregnancies were prevalent in this community along with a very high rate of child marriages,” she said.
ASRHR education has become a special necessity in Mashonaland Central province, considered a high risk zone following a 4,9% increase in the number of new STI cases compared to the previous year according to National Aids Council statistics.
Sister-in-charge at the adolescence clinic, Risaphael Zishiri believes that the spiking numbers are reason enough to justify the establishment of ASRHR programmes targeting the young who are, in most cases, secretly indulging in unsafe sex.
“Through statistics, we have encountered that there is an increased number of STIs that is how we know that these adolescence are having sex, so we have to offer them sexual health education concerning use of contraceptives to prevent the risks,” Zishiri said.