TAC’s work in schools
Not enough is being done to educate teenagers on HIV, sexuality and teenage pregnancy in our schools. This is unacceptable since teens are at high risk of contracting HIV both through consensual sex and sexual abuse. As a result, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Ekurhuleni has been hard at work informing young people about HIV.
Young peer educators
Since September 2011 TAC has trained learners in the Ekurhuleni area to be peer educators in their schools. These students lead daily educational sessions with their peers. They pledge to share information about HIV with their friends, other learners, and everyone affected by the virus. They also commit themselves to not disclosing the HIV status of others without their permission.
The programme has given learners a platform on which to talk freely about sexuality and about the challenges they face as teenagers. Some teens find it easier to discuss issues relating to sexuality with fellow students than with teachers or parents.
TAC youth conference
In December 2012 TAC hosted a youth conference at Dinwiddie Hall outside Germiston, in Ekurhuleni municipality. The themes for the conference were “Youth together taking responsibility to end HIV infection“, “No to eenage pregnancy”, “No to discrimination” and “No to gender-based violence”. Over 100 young people from Gert Sibande, Tsakane, Duduza and Katlehong South attended the conference.
The young people were divided into groups to discuss issues like: disclosure and support; HIV prevention and positive living; behavioural change towards zero infections; and gender, rights and communities.
The students also debated the following topics: “The effect of teenage pregnancy and the role of boys” and “Availability and accessibility of condoms to young people”. The conference went on to feature presentations, including one on “Rights, responsibilities and leadership”.
Apart from the youth conference and peer-educator programme, TAC has also arranged youth camps and organised a youth walk against teen pregnancy.
TAC’s work with young people in Ekurhuleni shows that we can involve teenagers in active discussions about their own health and sexuality. The peer educator programme and youth conferences could be replicated in other schools and education districts. Such initiatives may be essential to getting the most out of sex education and out of schemes like the Integrated School Health Programme.
By Bonginkosi Mthembu-Moloi