Youth Zone offering free sexual and reproductive health services to open in Beaufort West
With today signalling the start of STI/Condom and Pregnancy Awareness Week, Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Professor Nomafrench Mbombo joined the South Cape TVET College in Beaufort West on Friday, 2 February 2024, to engage approximately 250 students on youth matters specifically relating to sexual and reproductive health.
The Minister was joined by a variety of stakeholders, such as Right to Care and Sexual Partners in Health, who took part in Higher Health’s First Things First health activation campaign which takes place on TVET College campuses.
During the event, department officials in attendance also announced that a special Youth Zone will be operational on 15 February to offer free sexual and reproductive health services. Following countless encounters with youth who stated that they did not feel comfortable acquiring sexual and reproductive health services at traditional health facilities due its perceived prejudice and stigmas, the Youth Zone concept was formalized to provide a safe environment free of judgement.
This means that on every Thursday between 14:00 and 16:00 at the local Thusong Centre, youth will be able to access the following: Family planning, emergency contraception, termination of pregnancy (TOP) referral, STI screening and treatment, condoms, HIV testing referrals, as well as health promotion and education.
The engagement came at a significant time as the South Africa begins its Reproductive Health Month in February which is used to raise awareness on the crucial role it plays in fostering a healthier society, particularly for our youth.
Whether it be preventing STIs and unintended pregnancies, promoting gender equality and empowerment, improving maternal and child health, preventing sexual violence, or enhancing mental health, honest, open and compassionate conversations with our youth are essential to ensure their overall wellbeing.
This is particularly important when accounting for general statistics in the Central Karoo. Out of the total population of more than 76 000 people, the Couple Year Protection Rate for condoms in the second quarter of 2023/34 averaged at 41%. This is an estimation of the condom protection offered by family planning within a one-year timeframe and is derived from the total volume of condoms distributed to clients during that period. Additionally, when inspecting live births between April and December last year, 112 were from residents aged between 10- and 19-years-old.
This highlighted the need for a whole-of-society approach to continue so that our youth are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for leading healthy and fulfilling lives.
Echoing this sentiment and speaking on behalf of the students, SRC Chairperson of the South Cape College Beaufort West Campus, Mr Sinawo Quvame, added that, “Advocacy of youth matters, specifically those relating to sexual and reproductive health, is important because it creates a more responsible society. It can be used to raise awareness about what's best for young people and help them find the information they need to make better decisions at a time when they are beginning their adult lives."
Minister Professor Nomafrench Mbombo concluded the event by saying, “This is the fourth time I am returning to the South Cape TVET College in order to speak about this issue with the students. Sexual and reproductive health is an important aspect of all of our lives as it not only encompasses physical wellbeing, but also impacts one’s emotional, social, and economic wellbeing. As such, it is important that we have these engagements as often as possible to ensure everyone acutely understands the multifaceted nature of this issue. Let us continue to work together to build healthier and happier communities.”