For many young people the experience of going to a clinic to access services such as HIV testing and treatment can be very daunting.In South Africa, studies show nearly a third of new HIV infections are in adolescent girls and young women (aged 15-24), who are becoming infected at eight times the rate of their male peers.So why are the youth not accessing services to protect themselves against pregnancy, STIs and HIV?”In most cases young people don’t feel comfortable to share the same space as their elders and some even leave the clinic without being assisted,” says Nompumelelo Mtshali, a nurse clinician working for Health Systems Trust at Lamontville Clinic in Durban.
“We frequently have cases of teenage pregnancy, STIs and HIV infections but girls are shy to visit the health care facility because they fear of queuing with their parents or elderly neighbours, which can prevent them from opening up about their issues to the healthcare staff,” she said.The opening of Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services (AYFS) in Lamontville, Durban South on Thursday is a partnership between eThekwini Department of Health and Health Systems Trust, aimed at promoting a friendly and welcoming environment for youngsters of the community. It comprises a special building separate from the rest of the clinic, where any young person who comes to the clinic – even if they have a complaint like flu – can be treated in an atmosphere more conducive to open engagement with staff.Zinhle Zulu*, a 20-year-old student, believes pressure from male partners is a key factor in the prevalence of epidemic among adolescent girls and young women. She says that many girls have unprotected sex due to their insecure partners, placing them at a greater risk of contracting diseases.
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