EE and EELC welcome the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) attempt to address the prevention of HIV, STIs and TB amongst learners.
We have been repeatedly vocal in our stance that it is unlawful to deny teenagers access to HIV preventative measures and we have always wanted condoms to be distributed, in an easy, discreet and accessible manner, in schools. This should be coupled with comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education.
All segments of society must be alive to and guided by the evidence regarding condom distribution in schools. The evidence supports the fact that making condoms available in schools will lead to safer sex, and reduced contraction of HIV and STI’s. We certainly have a responsibility as a nation, as envisioned in our National Development Plan, to reduce HIV infections amongst our youth. There is also no evidence to support the claim that making condoms available will cause learners to have sex at younger ages.
According to a 2012 National Survey on HIV, 37.5% of all learners reported having had sex. With 12.6% indicating that their first sexual encounter occurred before 14.Clearly there is a need.
We do have a few concerns with the Draft Policy:
- It is not clear what “access” means, it also not clear how the distribution method will be facilitated. Research shows that learners are reluctant to obtain condoms when issued by an authority figure. Making condoms available only through mobile clinics will not necessarily aid learners to make use of them. The policy should be amended to allow learners easy and discreet access without having to interact with an authority figure to obtain condoms. For example, unmonitored condom dispensers could be placed in male and female bathrooms.
- The Integrated School Health Policy is not an efficient way to distribute condoms in schools for a number of reasons, including a shortage of nurses and transport.
The lack of learner voices in finalising the policy is a concern. The requirement that children participate in this process is contained in International, National and Regional law. It is important that learners have a say in an issue which impacts most intensely and directly on them. The opportunity for commentary on the policy should be re-opened and the DBE should take specific steps to ensure that learners are able to participate in the process.
EE and EELC made the submission on the Draft Policy last week and it is available HERE with our full recommendations to the DBE:
For more information contact:
Lisa Draga(EELC attorney) 072 650 0214
Wim Louw (EE researcher) 071 685 8919
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE spokesperson) 060 503 4933
 The South African Medical Council’s Second South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (YRBS) 2008 at page 34. Accessible: http://www.mrc.ac.za/healthpromotion/yrbs_2008_final_report.pdf