'Don't give condoms to pupils'

HARARE - Health minister David Parirenyatwa has said it is not yet time to provide condoms in schools but strengthen sex education.

This comes as adolescents have become a key population in the treatment of HIV, as infections are rising among the age group.

“We still insist on delaying sexual debut. We are quite conscious that sexual education should be taught in schools from a young age, from Grade Four upwards.

“We should start there and teach about sexual and reproductive health, particularly looking at the challenges of diseases that can come thereof,” Parirenyatwa said in an interview.

“So we don’t advocate for any condoms in schools at all, we advocate for a lot of knowledge, a lot of information, education and given according to age. You don’t give information of a Grade Seven to a Grade Four, it is graduated.

“So that is what we are urging. But certainly, we advocate for condoms after 16 years for the adults, they must use that.

“But for younger ones, we are still advocating that they must delay sexual debut. Let them know the consequences of it, but we are not advocating for any condoms yet in schools.”

There are an estimated 77 000 children aged zero to 14 living with HIV in Zimbabwe, according to United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAids) statistics.

Although new infections of HIV are generally decreasing, the country is recording a significant rise in infection among people aged between 10 and 19 years, according to the current national statistics.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has also warned in a World Aids Day report, of a global rise of HIV infections among adolescents from 250 000 in 2015 to nearly 400 000 a year by 2030 if progress is stalled in reaching out to adolescents.

Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (Repssi — an organisation that works to lessen the devastating social and emotional impact of poverty, conflict, HIV and Aids among children and youth — said provision of condoms to children in schools is an individual choice which should be made in consultation with parents of a child.

“Because as long as a child is under 18; their parents have a say about whether they should be getting condoms or not. I know the age of consent in Zimbabwe is 16. But some parents are of the view that at 16, a person is still a child,” Repssi country director Sibusisiwe Marunda told the Daily News.

“And that is why we are encouraging conversations between parents and children, conversations within communities so that we unpack these issues so that when parents make an individual decision that my child should not get a condom or will get a condom, they are making it from an informed perspective.

“When they visit a clinic and want to access condoms they are either already sexually active or they are seeking protection because they are sexually active and denying them those commodities will not help anybody. So it’s a better choice to give them those commodities.”

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