News

CONDOMIZE! Botswana Campaign

20 May 2014

CONDOMIZE! Botswana Campaign

LAUNCH STATEMENT

By

AISHA CAMARA-DRAMMEH

UNFPA Representative

Director of Ceremonies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to be part of this launch of THE CONDOMIZE! Botswana Campaign. This is an exciting and yet a very crucial moment for us as UNFPA and our Stakeholders - including the Ministry of Health, NACA, UNAIDS and indeed the young people themselves - to be witnessing the inauguration of this campaign in Botswana. A condom is a critical element in a comprehensive, effective and sustainable approach to HIV prevention and treatment. Ensuring access to condoms is therefore a prerequisite for the Sexual and Reproductive Health of young persons. We are glad that this initiative brings this assurance!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Young people of Botswana, just like all other young people elsewhere, are faced with a number of challenges including: high-risk sexual behaviour leading to high teenage unwanted pregnancies, high incidences of HIV infections, low comprehensive knowledge on SRH and HIV and limited access to SRH services and commodities. A substantial number of young people are experimenting with sex at a younger age. About 19.1% of students included in the Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance Survey of 2012 reported having had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13.  While reporting on condom is high among young people, 78.4% of 15-24 year olds reported using a condom every time they had sex with a non-regular partner, the challenge remains consistency in use among this group.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me remind you that young people remain at the centre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact, and potential for change. Although Botswana is among the countries that are witnessing declines on new infections - for instance, for the 15–24 year olds, HIV incidence declined by 25% - the country is still dealing with high HIV prevalence, particularly among young women of ages 15–24 years (10.7%) as compared to their male counterparts (4.8%). These young people have grown up in a world changed by AIDS but many still lack comprehensive and correct knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection - only 47% of 15-24 years old have correct and the knowledge levels are even lower for females. Unfortunately this situation persists compelling all stakeholders to support young people more to ensure their potentials are fulfilled.

It is therefore imperative that creating demand for condoms by convincing young people to use them correctly and consistently remains an important part of the equation for preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, including prevention of adolescent pregnancies. However, in many places, young people who want to use condoms are unable to obtain them due to, among others, limited youth-friendly services with convenient distribution points offering free access without judgement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we continue to celebrate Botswana as a shining example of a committed country to tackling HIV. However demand creation initiatives, through vigorous campaigns to rally young people on HIV response to delay sexual debut and where they choose to start sex they are able to negotiate for use of condom and protect themselves, unfortunately these initiatives are limited in scope and coverage.  THE CONDOMIZE! Campaign therefore comes at an opportune time to revitalise the campaigns to mobilise communities on HIV prevention and adolescent pregnancy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, programmes become effective when youth are treated as partners than mere recipients. Youth are the leaders of today and the future, they not only have responsibility but are innovate to mobilise other young people, particularly through their social media platforms. I am pleased to note that THE CONDOMIZE! Botswana Campaign has indeed lived up to ensuring that young people are given the centre stage to mobilize, dialogue and transfer information and skills to other young people. So far training was held for youth in order to prepare them to take part in the campaign, followed by a media training to equip them in reporting on SRH issues for young people. The next training will be for service providers.

Director of Ceremonies, I would like to urge all of us to support young people in all our spheres of influence: draft policies that protect young people, ensuring that they have comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and can access youth friendly services. Basically it is time to accelerate implementation of the Ministerial Commitment on CSE and SRH for adolescent and young people in East and Southern Africa, commonly known as the ESA Commitment.

I am happy that at UNFPA we are supporting the Ministry of Health and NACA to roll out the CONDOMIZE! Botswana Campaign. Indeed a lot still needs to be done to ensure that every young Motswana has the correct information on how to protect themselves. It is very clear that in order to reverse the tide of the HIV epidemic, young people should be kept at the centre of the HIV response. I wish to challenge all stakeholders to support this initiative until we reach all young people in every corner of this vast country. Provision of Condoms is indeed a way of putting young people in control of their sexual and reproductive health.

Director of Ceremonies, let me hasten to say that merely making condoms available at facilities and different spots is not enough. A supportive political, legislative and community environment is an essential component: this includes legislative bodies, religious institutions, community leaders, service providers, teachers, parents, and individuals. Several studies have shown that health service providers’ attitudes can affect potential condom users. This is an area we need to look into.

To the young people, I want to encourage you to continue protecting yourselves from HIV and early pregnancies. Your destiny is in your hands; delay sexual debut and ensure that you use condoms at all times when you decide to engage in sex. CONDOMIZE! Don’t compromise!

To the media, We welcome you to this partnership. You have a crucial role in disseminating and educating the public particularly the young people with  correct information on condoms and related issues. Your partnership is important to dispel myths and correct misconceptions that usually arise in our communities.

In conclusion, let me assure you that my organisation, UNFPA, remains committed to supporting the Government of Botswana by providing technical expertise to implementing the Condom Programming Strategy.

Director of Ceremonies, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Health and NACA for spearheading this campaign and ensuring that it is a success. To our global CONDOMIZE Campaign Team, your technical expertise is valuable and will go a long way in informing the upcoming campaigns that seek to ensure that young people adopt protective sexual behaviors.

Kealeboga Bagaetsho – Thank you.