Sexuality education and health services top agenda at meeting of regional experts in Botswana
Experts and policy-makers from East and Southern African nations will meet in Gaborone, Botswana, on July 30 and 31, to review the findings of a new report on the difficulties facing adolescents and young people in relation to health and sexuality education. The meeting, convened by UNAIDS and UNESCO, will be opened by Salma Kikwete, the First Lady of Tanzania.
With an estimated 52 young people infected with HIV every hour, East and Southern Africa remain the epicenter of the global HIV epidemic. Education and access to information services are considered among the most effective tools for addressing this situation.
Scheduled for publication in early October, the report, “Young People Today, Ready for Tomorrow?”, presents data from the 21 countries in the region, covering health and the social status of adolescents and young people, access to education, HIV knowledge, HIV and unintended pregnancy prevalence and key gender and human rights indicators. It reviews sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health services, and gender, rights and contextual issues, and makes a number of recommendations on addressing gaps in these areas.
Participants at the Gaborone meeting, including experts and policy makers in education, sexual reproductive health and rights, HIV and development, will review the findings and discuss their implications.
Their conclusions will contribute to the preparation of a “Ministerial Commitment” for region-wide action to improve provision of sexuality education and health services for young people. This “Commitment” is due to be endorsed and launched on 7 December at a conference of education and health ministers from the concerned countries.“The need for a commitment is unquestionable,” said Sheila Tlou, Chair of the Gaborone meeting and Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Young people still face challenges around teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and high fertility rates, not to mention HIV. Young people themselves are agitating for a reinvigorated response to their needs. Our young people are right. We simply cannot afford to continue with business as usual."