The youth are calling on for increased access to information on HIV/AIDS as well as reproductive health to reduce the chances of contracting the virus.
They spoke ahead of the 2019 International Conference on AIDS and STIs which opened in Kigali 2 December 2019 convening over 8000 people from across the continent and beyond
At the youth pre-conference where Musah Lumumba, a Sexual reproductive health activist called out the older generation for not according the youth and adolescents adequate reproductive information, saying that some parents and teachers continue to hesitate to avail of information.
“There are some communities until now, that do not allow their youths to talk about sexual reproduction. But look, we are experiencing teen pregnancies at lower ages. In some communities, they continue to deny them information about HIV/AIDS and sexual health. That’s why teens should have information that would rend them aware of unwanted pregnancies and HIV,”, said Musah Lumumba.
Shannon Hader, The Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS said though unpopular, countries should also consider lowering the age of consent where it is still high to enable young people to get tested and have access to preventive measures.
“Last year, Namibia and The Republic of South Africa have lowered the age of consent. A few weeks ago, also, Tanzania lowered the age of consent. This allows youths to be responsible of themselves and start having information about AIDS and teen pregnancies at early age.”, said the UNAIDS Executive Director.
The World Health Organization reported that 30 per cent of new HIV infections especially among the youth aged between with 15 and 25 years of age. The youths have severally cited lack of information of sexual reproduction at lower age, inadequate sexual education in schools.
“Girls are dropping out of schools because of shame of being pregnant. Guess what? They were not told about this before. Parents are the ones to advise their kids on how to behave in their adolescence and not to kick them out of the house after pregnancy,” said Dr. Grihab Pinna President of Youth Peer Education.
These youth further pointed out challenges such as lack of access to contraceptives.
Rosemary Mbabazi urged the youth to continuously express their challenges and concerns in the fight against HIV/Aids.
“It is good to discuss about things that concern our lives. HIV is becoming an epidemic to young people and it increasingly becoming a pressing issue. We should make sure it is prevented from today and future leaders because Africa is more of young people than other times”, she said.
In response to the challenges, Rwanda has established Anti HIV/AIDS clubs, 28 youth-friendly centres among other programs to raise the level of awareness.
The New Times