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Joint Media Statement by UNICEF and partners in support of the Department of Basic Education making available sexual and reproductive health services in schools

27 May 2015 - UNICEF South Africa and our partners welcome and support the Department of Basic Education’s Draft National Policy on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and TB released on 5 May 2015 for public comment. Our collective endorsement of this policy was articulated at a roundtable held on 27 May 2015 in Pretoria during which the provisions of the policy were discussed including the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and rights (condoms and HIV testing) in schools.

We commend the Minister of Basic Education for a comprehensive, bold, progressive and rights-based policy geared towards ensuring that all children, including the most vulnerable enjoy the right to quality basic education by addressing key health and social barriers to teaching and learning.

The policy also endeavours to deliver on children’s, educator’s and school support staff’s right to health by making available a comprehensive package of sexual and reproductive health information and services including access to condoms and HIV testing in school. This is in keeping with the global strategy (that 90% of those living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of those eligible are on treatment, and that 90% on treatment are virally suppressed) to end the HIV epidemic, to which South Africa is a signatory.

The Draft Policy recognises the level of sexual activity amongst young people (36% amongst Grade 8-11 learners according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey) resulting in early pregnancy and risk for HIV-infection. This not only limits positive health and social outcomes, but also compromises educational and economic opportunities for young people.

There is a range of data from across the world demonstrating that talking to young people about sexual and reproductive health and rights provides them with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions. Importantly, sexuality education does not increase sexual activity amongst learners (Kirby 2001 & 2005). There is also evidence to show that the distribution of condoms in school increases safe sex practices. It does not increase sexual activity amongst young people (Raab, 1998; Blake, 2003).

Making available condoms and HIV counselling and testing to learners in school is the next critical and necessary step as part of a comprehensive approach to accelerate the decline in HIV-infection rates and early pregnancy amongst young people.

UNICEF South Africa and our partners therefore fully support the Department of Basic Education’s policy position on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services and look forward to working together to implement the policy.

Endorsed by:

Dr Yulia P Krieger, Deputy Representative
UNICEF South Africa
Date: 27-05-15

G Matlhape
loveLife

TB Zenani
COSAS

Y Pillay
National Department of Health

P Serote
Treatment Action Campaign

N Pooe
Section 27

NA Chueu
PEU

T Govender
Society for Family Health

L Van der Elst
MIET Africa

WITS RHI

S Jones
Save the Children

M Moremi
SOS Children’s Villages

N Nkosi
Princess High School

A Calder
Right to Care

M Pillay
Higher Education South Africa (HEAIDS)

 

 

 

 

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