Youth clubs contribute positively towards HIV prevention
UNICEF continues to support the youth clubs that give young people correct information on sexual reproductive health and HIV
Big-Bend, a very scenic area in the lowveld of the kingdom of Eswatini surrounded by hills across the Usutu river, hosts one of the fourteen (14) youth clubs facilitated by Super Buddies Club, an NGO that supports young people on HIV prevention and sexual reproductive health through youth clubs. Supported by UNICEF, Super buddies Club has established youth clubs in 4 schools, 6 communities and in 4 clinics in the Lubombo region, the region with the highest number of HIV infections per capita in the country.
Adolescents and youth in Eswatini do not have adequate information and access to services which enable them to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health yet they experience a variety of challenges. Young people aged 15-24 years are particularly vulnerable because of their age and social-economic factors and are highly susceptible to peer pressure and have tendencies towards risk-taking behaviours.
In collaboration with Government and NGO partners, UNICEF supports adolescents and youth clubs in the country to empower young people to make informed decisions on their sexuality and reproductive health including HIV prevention.
Standing outside the classrooms at his school, Sizolwethu Maziya (17 years) cannot hide his excitement as he shares how being part of the youth clubs has transformed his life.
“I wish all young people in this country, especially boys, could be given the opportunity to be part of these life changing clubs”, emphasized Sizolwethu.
He timidly shares that before joining the youth club, he was a member of a group of boys in school who encouraged each other to have at least two girlfriends and have sex with them, and often it was unprotected sex. The group would have a way of verifying the number of girlfriends to qualify one to be a full member of the group. To have a sense of belonging in the group , Sizolwethu had to have unprotected sex with the girls.
“U-report is a brilliant way of sharing issues that bother you, particularly because the person who responds to the issues does not know you and does not judge you and it is free."
Young people in Eswatini begin engaging in sexual activity at an early age. The median age at first sex is 16 years for girls and 18 years for boys.
When quizzed about what he likes the most about the youth clubs, Sizolwethu states that one of the best things that happened to him was to undergo an HIV test after learning about the importance of knowing one’s HIV status and the sms based platform (U report) that the young people could write to for one- on- one advice.
“U- report is a brilliant way of sharing issues that bother you, particularly because the person who responds to the issues does not know you and does not judge you and it is free. After the session on HIV testing at the club I quickly sent a message to U- report and the responder encouraged me to go for an HIV test since I had unprotected sex”, remarked Sizolwethu.
Sizolwethu is quick to say that since he tested negative, he is determined to maintain the status by abstaining from sex and staying away from “bad friends”.
UNICEF continues to support the youth clubs that give young people correct information on sexual reproductive health and HIV and empower them to make informed decisions about their lives.