Community Dialogue gets pupils talking about HIV

KAYLYNN PALM

Are we doing enough to prevent gender violence and the spread of HIV?

This was the question posed to pupils, residents and organisations in attendance at the Community Dialogue hosted by the Aids Legal Network (ALN) at the Eastridge clinic on Wednesday March 2.

Pupils from Tafelsig and Beacon Hill high schools and members of the Health Department, Isibindi Project, Triangle Project, the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) and Mitchell’s Plain SAPS attended the event.

Marcelle Davis and Nurzaan Stemmet from Beacon Hill spoke about their concerns relating to Aids and teenage pregnacy.

Marcelle said teenage pregnancy is fairly common at the school and that they are in need of a health worker or clinic staff at the school. “There isn’t enough education at schools regarding contraceptives and facts about HIV/Aids, and that is why our youth are falling pregnant at a young age. We need clinic staff to visit our school, speak to the pupils, tell them about the dangers and most importantly provide them with information and support,” she said.

Anastacia Hendricks from Tafelsig High agreed that a designated nurse and counsellor are needed at schools.

“We often find that pupils do not visit the clinic because they feel judged and intimidated so it makes them nervous and shy. So, the reality is that they will have unprotected sex, get an STI and fall pregnant.

“But with the support of a nurse and counsellor at the school, pupils will feel free to speak about their issues and open to information,” she said.

Zameka Faku from Lost City in Tafelsig said community dialogues are important. “There are so many women being exposed to domestic violence and this shouldn’t be acceptable. No person is allowed to have sex with you without consent.

“Parents (also) need to be empowered about HIV/Aids, contraceptives and abstinence. They need to educate their children and take control in their households. It is important that they play a role in their lives, assist them with decisions around these topics,” said Ms Faku.

Vidonia Jaftha from Beacon Hill High said teenagers are pressurised to have sex in their teens as it is seen to be “cool”.

“Sadly pupils are weak and give in to peer pressure by their boyfriends or friends. They do it to fit in and think it is cool. This also happens because pupils are not being educated about contraceptives and if they are, they are not getting access to it,” he said.

Beatrice Leng from Isibindi Project in Tafelsig said: “We cannot allow the cycle of violence to continue. Young women take care of your bodies and stand up for your rights. Report crime and make the right choices, because the decisions you make will determine your destination,” she said.