Windhoek-The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, yesterday spoke strongly on the importance for youth to freely access contraceptives without fear of victimization from health officials –“especially the elderly nurses and doctors.”
“We still have young people being tormented by especially older nurses and doctors who are scolding them. A 16-year-old coming to the clinic wanting contraceptives. The response is an enormous tormenting, ‘Why the hell, why are you not in school? Why do you want sex?’” said Haufiku.
“Who knows who sleeps where and with who? It’s their right. If they want condoms, even in Grade 8, give the condoms because you’re not going to sleep with them. They sleep around with the boys, they sleep anywhere where they find it convenient,” he stated.
Haufiku, who made reference to recent statistics, said new STD infections are on the rise in the age group of 15 to 24 in Namibia.
Emphasizing the burden of new infections among young people, Haufiku said: “We are wasting time with some cultural, spiritual, whatever means to contain our young people in cocoons.”
He added the strides Namibia achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, such as access to antiretroviral drugs and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, would be reversible if taken for granted.
“These are fragile gains that are reversible and perhaps they could have even more dire consequences if we are not careful. The majority of new infections are in the 15-24 age group. That’s ridiculous. In our culture here it is expected that those age groups are not sexually active,” said the health minister.
Haufiku made the remarks yesterday at the official opening of the ‘HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescent girls and young women, for Eastern and Southern Africa, regional consultation.’
He stressed HIV prevention has been neglected.
“Where the hell do they get the virus from? This is the perpetual denial we put ourselves in and that is going to explode in our face if we’re not careful,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, US Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton, commended Namibia for the strides in improving access to quality treatment of people living with HIV.
“The latest estimate is that 76 percent of people living with HIV in Namibia are now on antiretroviral treatment. Even more significantly, almost every HIV-positive woman in this country receives antiretroviral treatment,” said Daughton.
Daughton stressed that young people are vulnerable to HIV infection.
“For both economic and cultural reasons, adolescent girls and young women not infrequently acquire HIV from men who are much older and many remain unaware of their HIV-positive status for years,” said Daughton.
The meeting started yesterday and will end tomorrow.