Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Youth and Misconceptions about HIV/AIDS

In terms of its prevalence; HIV is not specific to a particular religion, race or ethnical grouping. It is a well known fact that all human beings are prone to the virus and the only way out is to avoid getting infected through preventative measures against the virus.   It affects people of all sexes, ages and the virus does not care about a person’s socioeconomic status. 

The Youth are no exception and in fact, due to a certain curious nature that is usually associated with youth-hood puts them at a higher risk than other age groups. This is the case and some quarters in our society feel the youth are under served and an unheard group. 

The Youth are rarely heard and this is a pity because what's on their mind is very important as nobody can easily guess what the youth think, observe or need. In order to fully understand and to meet their HIV prevention needs, we need to listen to their voices. The Youth have a number of concerns on the issues pertaining to HIV/AIDS and they also have a lot of myths and misconceptions. 

Study findings on Youth Sex Dynamics and Behavior revealed that 10 ladies who visited chemists, only one condom was bought against nine pills on Friday evenings and Saturdays. This simply shows that they are afraid of pregnancy more than AIDS!

 We need to clear up all misconceptions, deliver our prevention messages in ways which should challenge the youth and most importantly there is need to listen and address their concerns.

Wishing you all a happy new year!!!!

Stay safe!!!!

Monday, 30 December 2013

A Training Session to Memorialize

After the Christmas festivities I was on the road to Balaka where I went to attend a training session on Life Skills and Family Planning for teen mothers and married adolescents. The training was organized by Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) in an effort to expand access of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights services among the hard to reach populations in Malawi. The overall objective is to reduce HIV infection and prevalence among the targeted hard to reach groups of people.

The morning session started with a very strong and exciting tempo and I have to confess that I did not manage to attend the other previous two sessions. Frankly speaking, I have to admit that I really missed a lot.
The session was organized for a group of about 40 young ladies comprising of unmarried teen mothers and married adolescent girls and each one of them had a story to tell.

 What struck me most was that all their individual accounts seemed different but they all revolved around a certain analogous ending- early and unplanned pregnancies. According to most of the girls, the pregnancies came about due to a single day of ecstasy and euphoria with some young men that eventually led to the inevitable happening.

They ended up in withdrawing from their studies either temporarily or for good, some had some serious complications during child birth and many other ordeals.
After this particular session under discussion, all the girls were like ‘I wish I had been told this a bit earlier’. What does this statement tell us?

It shows that there is a lot that has to be done and that issues concerning sexual reproductive health of adolescents should be taken seriously. This among other strategies, calls for the once vibrant youth clubs to be rejuvenated and concerned NGOs will be visiting you (the youth) through your designated clubs.
On our part, we just have to make sure that necessary structures are in place so as to ease the trouble that some people who want to help us go through whenever they want to reach us. Let us open our eyes and see the challenges that are affecting our fellow young boys and girls in our neighbourhoods.

The training session I am talking about opened my eyes and I will not memorize the day it happened but I will memorialize the significance of it and all the adolescents I met there- I am wishing them a happy and a prosperous new year!!!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Food For Thought

Children who are malnourished or even those that are experiencing short-term hunger have limited capacities to learn. School feeding programs are a way to reduce hunger and improve the nutrition of children so that they are able to concentrate, understand and perform well in class. The meals that they receive at school contribute a great deal to better nourishment, good health and better academic performance for those children and their thinking capacity is improved. This also helps in the reduction of the burden of school drop-outs and diseases for society and government to bear.Therefore school feeding programmes should be implemented by every government in primary schools especially those that are in the rural areas.

Friday, 20 December 2013

HIV Positive Kids Should Know Their Status

It’s been four months since I came across a certain incident and I have been thinking about it and thought it wise to share it with you today.

I met a child who was severely beaten up by his mother and surprisingly it seemed there was no apparent reason. The child had bruises all over his body and he was going towards a clinic. Several things got my attention, firstly the bruises and then a health passport he was carrying and the fact that he was alone in such a terrible condition he was in. 

 The aforementioned factors commanded my attention and I was eager to establish a few facts. I just found myself asking the kid some questions and one shocking truth I got from his responses was that the perpetrator was his own mother. I mumbled, ‘how could she?’

 To my surprise the child told me that he was not going to the hospital because he was beaten up but it was the doctor who told him to go and get some medical drugs on that particular date. The kid further expressed dismay over the doctor’s insistence on his going to the hospital to correct the drugs which he takes on a daily basis as if he is sick.

The kid explained to me that his mother was very furious and threatened to kill him when he showed her where the doctor scribbled something for him to show her. The little boy was very eager and impatient to know what the doctor wrote that made his mother angry up to an extent of beating him up.

The little boy humbly asked me to read out for him but I ignored considering the fact that it was his privacy. Even though he insisted, I had to respect his privacy but I decided to meet his mother no matter how far the kid’s home might be.

 ‘Please guardian disclose the status to the child’ were the words that were scribbled on the left hand side margin of a page somewhere inside the kid’s health passport. The mother had some tears in her eyes as she was showing me the message. Her face registered a lot of sorrow and attempts to hide her dilemma were futile. I realized that the parent was failing to tell the boy that he was HIV positive and instead she was playing hide and seek thereby making the situation worse.

But the time is now that parents and guardians should know that keeping such information from children does more harm than good. Its time parents and guardians of children who were born with HIV to be open with the kids and provide them with the information in simple terms that they can understand. We should have confidence in the child’s ability to cope and understand.

If the parent can’t manage to disclose alone, there may be counselors or social workers available who can help you  disclose their status; these people are very experienced with regard to disclosure and can offer valuable information that will help the child.

A kid who knows his/her status can easily avoid infecting others…

The Youth Are Nobody’s Toy Soldiers in Politicking

Today is 20th  December 2013, a month that comes after November and Malawi is remaining with exactly  five months before holding the first ever tripartite elections on 20th May,2014. So far,  in terms of preparations, a lot  is being done on the ground.

Political parties are busy conducting primary elections in various constituencies while some areas are yet to do the same. MEC, the electoral governing body in this country is yet to open its doors for the campaign period very soon. So far, everything seems to be on the right track and the youth are behaving themselves in a very commendable fashion.

However, I would like to advise my fellow young people out there to desist from making pacts with unscrupulous politicians who use them as pawns to advance their egocentric agendas. I have observed this abnormality in the recent two general elections that were held in this country.

It is high time our politicians moved away from politics of politicking to the real art and science of governing that is aimed at developing our country. The use of violence and emotively charged words against a challenger is a tendency of candidates who have nothing to offer their constituents and the only thing they can offer is nothing but sorrow. These are politicians with no clear manifestos whose ammunition include mere rhetoric and violence.

The most heartrending thing is that even though they are fond of using violence and intimidation, they fail to do this on their own. They involve young people who are neither their children nor their close relatives. I truly believe that the reason why they do not involve their children or relatives in instigating violence and fear among the electorate and their opponents goes without saying.

Such deceitful politicians entice the otherwise innocent young people with money and alcoholic beverages. Fellow young people, there are a lot of decent ways of earning an income and advancing someone’s agenda just because he or she has bought something that will or has led to your intoxication does not sound like a clever idea. Come next year; let us show the devious and crooked politicians that the youth of Malawi know better than that! Why do politicians think that young people are expendable and yet a song that is usually on their mouths is ‘the youth are leaders of tomorrow’? The youth of Malawi are inherently peaceful people and nobody should teach them otherwise.

Dear young Malawians, taking an active part in an election means either getting registered to vote, attending political campaign rallies so that you should identify a good candidate, and even contesting for a position of your choice so long as you have the welfare of people at heart and eligible to do so.

The year 2014 is already underway and I wish all the youth in Malawi a happy festive season as we are actively and positively taking part in the electoral processes in preparation for the forth coming tripartite elections!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

SRH Rights for the Youth

Society has always struggled with the issue of teen parenthood and of particular importance is the issue of teen motherhood. However, the agenda has always been on ensuring that adults should have access to contraceptive methods of their choice but not the youth. This entails that the adults will be able to choose whether and when to have children and in turn this leads to social and economic empowerment.
Sexual and Reproductive Health Services are available but we do not give room for the youth to access them and yet our wish is to empower them economically and socially.  While the idea is to get adolescent girls to acquire some education, we do not strongly deal with some factors that prevent them from going to school. One such factor is the issue of early pregnancies and parenthood.
It is quite saddening to think of single young mothers who are confronted with the struggle of making ends meet. Whether they come from a rich or a poor country, the single young mothers are unfairly regarded as a burden to the public purse. While each might provoke a different policy response, both suffer the same underlying prejudice and stigma.

There are a few (far too few) progressive comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curricula which talk about motherhood and parenting, but, let’s face it,  most references to teenage motherhood in sex education are firmly negative. There is a consensus that economic and educational opportunity is limited by early childbirth and the question is what are we doing about it?
We want young people to know about the basic biology of sex and about taking care, taking precautions, taking responsibility and avoiding infections. We want them to understand options, understand emotions and the ways in which relationships work.
The solution to teen parenthood does not lie in stigmatizing teen parents but it lies within the minds of policy makers and the youth themselves. However, the youth cannot help to solve the situation unless they are equipped with the necessary information and services. This is where comprehensive sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education comes handy. SRH education will equip the youth with knowledge pertaining to their sex and sexuality and avoid experimenting which brings out disastrous results.
On the other hand, policy makers need to emphasize on youth friendly health services where young people should be free to go and access sexual reproductive health services.  If we believe in empowering young people, we should not deny them their sexual and reproductive health rights.