Women of Worth will rise

2016-10-04 06:00
The Women of Worth project was launched at Oaklands High School on Friday. The project focuses on the fight against TB, HIV and teenage pregnancy among young women in the Cape metropole.  PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

The Women of Worth project was launched at Oaklands High School on Friday. The project focuses on the fight against TB, HIV and teenage pregnancy among young women in the Cape metropole. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Incidents of teenage pregnancy and HIV are on the rise, with 19% of pregnant young women coming for antenatal checkups in the Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Gugulethu, Manenberg, Heideveld, Crossroads, Hanover Park and Athlone areas testing positive for HIV between last year and this year.

In light of these findings, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, provincial health minister, officially launched the Women of Worth project on Friday at Oaklands High School in Kenwyn.

The project is supported by the Global Fund, which has awarded the department an R81m grant for the fight against TB, HIV and teenage pregnancy among young women and girls in the Cape metropole.

The initiative is an ambitious programme targeting young women between the ages of 19 and 24.

The project’s name was chosen through a vote by young women at the launch.

Ntomibizonke Libala, speaking as a concerned youth, spoke on abstinence and how alarmingly high the HIV infection rate is among girls.

“Women and young girls should wait until marriage to have sex. There are thousands of women falling pregnant before marriage and this should be stopped. Women should not be pressured into thinking that they are worth less if they do not have a baby. You are someone without a baby,” Libala said.

She encouraged parents to talk more openly about sex with their children.

“Our ultimate goal is to have condoms distributed in our schools. This is a need,” she said.

The project will deliver care using an evidence-based approach that goes beyond the health sector. The project’s initiatives will address the things that increase young women’s risk to HIV, including poverty, gender inequality and poor education.

The project will provide a variety of services, including empowerment coaching, parenting and caregiver programmes and a combination of socio-economic incentives aimed at HIV prevention.

“HIV/Aids is one of the biggest burdens of disease that plagues society. It is alarming to see that there is an increase among young adults. This is a result of poor socio-economic conditions faced by our youth which leads to alcohol and drug abuse among young adults and risky sexual behaviours.

“It is of utmost importance to improve HIV-preventive programmes for the youth. That is why we are launching the Women of Worth project to encourage our youth to take responsibility for their health and well-being,” Mbombo said.

“This topic is very close to my heart as it makes me nostalgic of my own youth and knowing these opportunities or projects did not exist. I can honestly say that if somebody had to tell me tomorrow to step down as the minister for health, I would do so gladly knowing that this project exists for younger girls. This project has made me so happy and, knowing the impact that it will have, I know we have achieved something great,” she said.

The project will also help the provincial health department to further its ongoing prevention programmes for teenagers and youth in and out of school, which ultimately helps in reducing the prevalence of young women aged between 10 and 24 years contracting HIV, Aids and TB.

The programme will also help to implement an education plan for the prevention of teenage pregnancy through life skills, sexual and reproductive health education and HIV counselling and testing.

The existing health facilities in Mitchell’s Plain and Klipfontein have tailored their services to better meet the needs of young women visiting these facilities.

“The department has been working hard at ensuring that staff at both provincial and district levels received training on community engagement methodologies as to enhance our impact,” Mbombo explained.

Through community-based workers the department will offer life skills training over a year period that will better equip young women for the rigors of adulthood.

Young women will be encouraged to participate in the programme. Participants of the programme will have the opportunity to earn rewards for continual participation in the project.

The overall strategic goal is to reduce HIV infections in teenagers in the Mitchell’s Plain and Klipfontein areas by at least 50% using a combination of prevention approaches.

The project also aims to:

. initiate at least 80% of eligible patients onto antiretroviral treatment;

. ensure an enabling and accessible legal framework that protects and promotes human rights in order to support how the Western Cape responds to the prevention and treatment of HIV and Aids, TB and sexually transmitted infections over the next five years; and

. reduce self-reported stigma related to HIV and TB by at least 50%.

“We are responding to the high teenage pregnancy rate and youth HIV-positive status by providing youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services,” Mbombo added.

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