Plea for parents to speak to kids about sex

Touching Nations co-ordinator Millicent Hendricks tests the blood pressure and sugar levels of Olga Siswana.

Most parents, particularly black parents, still find it extremely difficult to talk openly about sexual matters with their children.This emerged when the Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids (GAPA) held a health indaba at their offices, in Khayelitsha, on Thursday February 23.

The indaba strived to encourage senior citizens to have open and honest conversations about health and sexual issues with their children. Among its aims was also to bring health services to vulnerable members of community, while educating them about chronic diseases.

Also at the event were representatives of non-governmental organisations, Touching Nations, Sisonke Movement of Sex Workers, TB and HIV Care Association, traditional leaders, Salesian Life Choices and as well as officials from the Department of Health.

While some senior citizens seemed to be unhappy – and even disgusted – by a short discussion on sexual activities, drugs and what sex workers do, others listened attentively.

Young people who attended the event argued that parents and grandparents were too strict and reluctant to talk to them about sex. They argued that in black communities it was still viewed as being disrespectful to talk with parents about relationships and appealed to parents to change their approach.

Gapa executive director Vivienne Budaza said the Indaba was aimed at equipping senior citizens with the skills they needed to communicate with their children about health and sexual issues.

She stressed that it was a mammoth task for many senior citizens to attend clinics due to the fact they were far and there were long queues at these facilities.

“We continuously want to empower senior citizens and township residents with information and knowledge in order to make informed decisions. We want to equip people with ways to better take care of their health. And we also want to end the myths about certain diseases,” she said.

Winfred le Fleur, chief executive officer of Touching Nations, said their mission was to reduce HIV infections and halt the spread of tuberculosis (TB).

She told Vukani that while young people had no issues with opening up about health and sexual matters, it was an uphill battle to have conversations with senior citizens about sexual issues.

Through these discussion, she said, they had discovered that youngsters were not keen to use condoms and other protective measures.

Ms Le Fleur said their role was to educate people about living a healthy lifestyle and to conduct health screenings and HIV/Aids testing. And so, she grabbed the opportunity to encourage residents to frequently visit health facilities and to prioritise their health.

Resident Alicia Saalman, 68, said the event,had played a vital role in assisting them to improve communication with their children. She admitted that it is always difficult for them to tackle certain issues, including sex, with their children and alluded to the fact that culture and how they were raised made it quite difficult for them to open up about such issues.

“I have gained lot of knowledge and I’m now in a better position to address my children about any issues relating to sexual transmitted diseases and health,” she said.