from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE – THE rates of adolescents’ pregnancy and HIV/AIDS are on the rise in Zimbabwe as the youngsters fail to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
Without free and informative access to health services that include contraceptives, treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and condoms, national studies show that the rates are increasing.
Youngsters aged 10 to 19 years are at most risk.
According to Doctors Without Borders, a study revealed that Zimbabwe has the highest teenage fertility rate in sub-Saharan Africa with one in every 10 girls aged between 15 and 19 years falling pregnant every year.
National law states that young people below the age of 16 years cannot take an HIV test without parental consent while health workers often stigmatize young people seeking sexual health advice.
Doctors Without Borders reported that in many communities like the
impoverished Mbare, a sprawling high-density suburb in the capital Harare, young people startedhaving sex and experimenting as early as 12 years.
They do so frequently without protection or information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, STIs and HIV infection.
The medical organisation lamented that young people living with HIV also faced particular difficulties, especially if they only learn of their HIV
status by accident in their teens.
Most find it difficult to accept their condition, and often stop taking their antiretroviral treatment, Doctors Without Borders stated.
In Zimbabwe, 1,2 million people aged under 15 live with HIV.
An estimated 15 percent of the 16 million-population is infected.
– CAJ News