Interview: S. Africa ramps up efforts to prevent new HIV/AIDS, STD, teenage pregnancy cases: senior official-Xinhua

Interview: S. Africa ramps up efforts to prevent new HIV/AIDS, STD, teenage pregnancy cases: senior official

Source: Xinhua| 2022-06-25 17:10:59|Editor: huaxia

by Zodidi Mhlana

JOHANNESBURG, June 25 (Xinhua) -- South Africa's Department of Health has expanded its programs this year to prevent new HIV/AIDS cases, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as teenage pregnancies, with an emphasis on preventing new cases among young people, Deputy Minister of Health Sibongiseni Dhlomo has said.

"We want to empower the girls, we want them to finish matric (graduate high school)," Dhlomo told Xinhua in an interview, after traveling to different provinces to raise awareness about and tackle health issues that affect young people, especially teenagers and girls.

The department also wants to put more emphasis on other health issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Teen pregnancy increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and 36,262 pregnancies took place among South African girls and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 in 2021, figures showed.

Sixteen- to 24-year-olds are at high risk for new HIV infections, STDs and teenage pregnancies, although a majority of them don't have HIV or STDs, said Dhlomo.

Teenagers who become pregnant and never return to school after giving birth become vulnerable to extreme poverty, he said, adding that a teenager has a higher chance of dying due to pregnancy complications.

Poverty, households headed by children, and "sugar daddies" are some of the reasons for teenage pregnancies, he said.

He said the health department is creating Youth Zones at health facilities that are designed to create a safe environment for young people to access health services and interact with healthcare providers in an open and non-judgmental manner.

"We have done everything on our side to remove all those factors that make our facilities not friendly to young people," he added.