On 24 June, 2016 UNFPA South Africa joined the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, eight cabinet and deputy ministers, provincial premiers, donors and executive municipality mayors to launch an ambitious and ground- breaking national campaign to prevent HIV among young women and adolescent girls in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu Natal, in the East of the country. This launch adopted an expo approach, with both an educative and festive mood filling the air!
Mr. Ramaphosa confirmed that although progress has been made in curbing the HIV infection rate, there are still at least 2,000 young girls and women between the ages of 15 - 24 years old infected with HIV every week, one of the highest rates of infection in the world. The country also registers more than 72,000 health facility births among adolescents annually. The Deputy President’s message to men was resolute and clear - “Leave our young women alone! Leave our young girls alone! If you want love, go for your peers”. He therefore called on men to play a central role in promoting safer sexual practices and bringing an end to violence against women and stop being “blessers”, “mavusos” and “sugar daddies”.
The Deputy President had an encouraging message to young people, “you are the heart and future of South Africa- focus on education, seek out information and services to prevent HIV infection and pregnancies that are undesirable, reach out to the stars!”
Coming only 14 days after a global commitment to bring AIDS to an end by 2030 at the High level meeting in New York ---- it couldn’t have been more timely! The first ever, multi-sectoral, national three-year campaign was developed with technical support from UNFPA, will focus on reducing HIV infections, unwanted pregnancies, school dropout, sexual and gender-based violence, unemployment and a shortage of economic opportunities among girls and young women in 51 most affected sub-districts initially. It will provide increased access to sexual and reproductive health information and services through adolescent- and youth-friendly facilities, the School Health initiatives, community and peer outreach and support and parenting programmes for parents of teenagers and for teenage and young parents.
The event co-directed and led by young people from the UNFPA South Africa Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) and attended by UNAIDS, UNWOMEN, Civil Society, traditional leaders, over 2500 youth from different high schools and representatives from all nine provinces, was punctuated by educating drama, music, poetry and statements of commitment.
At the same event, young people - Tsepo Ngoato (UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel Member) spoke about his experiences of positively living with HIV and Sane Nkomo about being a teenage mother, while Lerato Morulane spoke as the campaign youth ambassador.
Speaking on behalf of the United Nations team in South Africa, Dr. Esther Muia, UNFPA Representative underlined the importance of this campaign which comes just over 14 days after the endorsement of the Political Declaration on ending AIDS by 2030, that among others highlighted the urgency of reversing the trend of new infections among adolescent girls and young women. Dr Muia pledged continued support of the UN system in the implementation of the campaign to ensure it achieves the intended objectives, “we stand ready to support this initiative as it seeks to secure a better future for youth.”
Earlier in the day, as demonstration of UNFPA commitment to the campaign by promoting “dual protection” (prevention of HIV/STIs and unwanted pregnancy), Dr Muia officially handed over 500 condom dispensers (with total capacity 115,000 condoms) to the Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health. The condom dispensers are part of the UNFPA support to the health sector to make condoms available for young people in institutions of higher learning. At the same occasion the Minister of Health launched a new branded scented male condom “Max4” whose branding has been developed based on the public condom perception research supported by UNFPA.
The young people-led campaign is funded through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief DREAMS initiative, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the German Development Bank (KfW) and the national government.
At the closure of the event the Deputy President unveiled the campaign logo and launched a young people competition for naming the campaign.