While comprehensive sexuality education is critically important, it is only half the battle. South Africa responded to its HIV epidemic with a rapid expansion of its condom distribution programme. However, condoms, especially female condoms, often remain out of reach to the most at risk group – young people and in particular, young women. Additionally, services remain unfriendly to young people and difficult to access at school.
Whether we like it or not, the fact is that many young people – including learners in schools – are sexually active. Every week in South Africa over 2 500 young people acquire HIV – that is over 350 every day. It is a moral imperative, and quite likely a Constitutional obligation, that we provide these young people with all the tools they need to protect themselves from getting HIV and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. For this reason, we need condoms to be made easily available in schools.
Another major issue is young girls missing school because of not being able to access sanitary wear during their periods. No girls should be disadvantaged to miss school because they can’t afford to buy pads or tampons. The government should ensure all girls are able to access free sanitary pads at schools to protect their Constitutional right to access education.