Youth health issues in spotlight

Health MEC Dr Nomafrench Mbombo.

MEC for Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, visited the Brown’s Farm clinic in Philippi on Monday, February 11, as part of Sexual Health Awareness Week, to showcase the Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services (AYFS) offered by health care facilities.

The MEC was accompanied by officials from her department and representatives from the Desmond Tutu Foundation.

She explained the importance of youth-friendly services while cautioning the youth about sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

Dr Mbombo also walked the clinic corridors to engage one-on-one with patients and attend to their complaints.

The AYFS programme started in April 2017 and was implemented by the Desmond Tutu Foundation at 24 clinics.

Adolescents face many barriers to accessing health services and the programme seeks to addresses these by making services more attractive to young people and keeping them coming back for treatment as they develop into adulthood.

With the emphasis on sexual and reproductive health this week, Dr Mbombo said they wanted to highlight sexually transmitted infections and the use of condoms among the youth.

She said the department emphasises the importance of using condoms when having sex to protect yourself and your partner against STIs.

She said the AYFS programme was vital because it enabled the youth to feel free to attend the clinic and not feel ashamed.

Dr Mbombo said the programme seeks to create a space for the youth in the clinics where they can feel free to raise their views and concerns. She said young people were often reluctant to visit the health care facilities as they were ashamed to queue with their parents.

“Through the programme we manage to make health services more accessible for the youth. I would like to encourage our young people to make use of our youth-friendly clinics.

“There are some clinics which have a dedicated youth clinic after-hours to accommodate school-going youth,” she said.

She said one of the key aims of the programme was to reach as many adolescent girls and young women as possible to help them make informed life decisions.

Dr Mbombo said the transition stage from being a teenager to a young woman was a critical phase. But she also said the programmesseeks to empower boys to make better life choices.

She said the programme sees on average 2 000 to 5 000 adolescents a month. “Services offered range from sexual and reproductive healthcare, including management of STIs and contraception, to pregnancy testing, counselling and HIV testing.”

Dr Mbombo said knowing your status gives you power to prevent the spread of diseases.

Clinical operations manager at the Desmond Tutu Foundation, Colleen Herman, said using protection not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but also prevents the contraction of diseases like HIV/Aids and STIs.

Ms Herman said they had various community-based programmes aimed at educating the youth about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. She said last year they recruited 460 youth to be part of their programme but only 177 stayed on while others dropped out.

She said they had equipped the youth with various skills which boosted their chances of employment.

Resident Sindiswa Nunu said the MEC’s visit was important and has certainly enlightened them. She said it was important that space was created for the youth so that they could visit the clinic often.