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No condoms in schools - Health Ministry declares

by Staff Reporter
02 Apr 2017 at 08:06hrs | Views
THE Government will not distribute condoms in primary and secondary schools but will instead pursue other HIV intervention strategies that resonate with the mandate of schools, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has said.

Director HIV/Aids and TB unit in the Health Ministry Dr Owen Mugurungi told Parliamentarians in Kwekwe last week that emphasis should be placed on sexual reproductive health and HIV education rather than endorsing an illegality.

His remarks followed a presentation by the National Aids Council (Nac) which showed that girls as young as 10 years maybe engaging sexual activities. There has been widespread debate on whether or not condoms should be distributed in schools, with proponents of the idea arguing that school children should have access to protection as they were becoming sexually active early.

Dr Mugurungi said distribution of condoms in schools might create more problems than those intended to be solved.

"We will not distribute condoms in schools. No! We know that condoms are effective in fighting HIV, but we will not give them to school children. We would rather provide education and counseling to these children. Distributing condoms may create more problems for us," he said.

Dr Mugurungi said he was happy that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had also taken a similar stance against the distribution of condoms to school children. He said efforts should be put to encourage school children to delay sexual debut.

"I'm glad that the ministry of education said it will not distribute condoms in schools. Their mandate is to provide education, not to dish out condoms. We don't want to appear as if we are endorsing sex at that age. Actually what we should be working on is encouraging these kids to delay sexual debut not to give them condoms," he said.

Dr Mugurungi said while some school going children were already sexually active, the numbers may not necessarily warrant distribution of condoms in schools.

Presenting the Mid-term Zimbabwe National HIV Strategic Plan III (ZNASP) to legislators, Nac monitoring and evaluation director Mr Amen Mpofu said statistics showed that HIV prevalence was higher among young girls than in young boys. He said the trend which maintains until the 40 to 44 years age group could be an indication that girls were debuting sex earlier than boys and were doing so with older men.

"Our girls are starting sex early, perhaps as early as 10 years old, as you can see from these statistics which show HIV prevalence in the 10 to 14 years age group being higher among girls," he said.

He was however, quick to dismiss the idea of giving school children access to condoms, saying the country's laws were against early sexual debut.

On condom uptake in the country Mr Mpofu noted a discrepancy in the number of condoms distributed annually and the number of people who may be using them. He said last year the country surpassed its target for condom distribution in 2016 of 100 million. A total of 104 million condoms were distributed last year.

The latest Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) however, shows that about 50 percent of females and 31 percent males aged between 15 and 49 years who had more than one partner in the past 12 months used a condom during their last sexual intercourse. The Ministry of Health and Childcare targets to increase the country's condom uptake in the 15 to 49 age group as part of efforts to reduce the country's HIV incidence rate.
Source - Sunday News

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