We now have to maintain our promise to younger folks, younger folks

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From Sheila Tlou

My years of work in HIV prevention have taught me a lot. Among other things, it is important that people who do not know how to protect themselves or receive treatment are unable to prevent HIV or live happy and fulfilling lives with HIV.

Therefore, information and education are key. But it is not the only thing that is needed. I may have information that unsafe sex could expose me to HIV or other STIs, but I can still go ahead and have unprotected sex.

This means that the motivation and the means must also be provided.

The other thing I learned about imparting knowledge is that you have to do it before it’s too late.
People need to know how to prevent an illness before they come in contact with it or before they act in ways that make their bodies susceptible to it.

Children today are leading the way on a number of global issues – be it girls’ education, climate change or HIV.

We have at least two world leaders on girls’ education and climate change who began leadership as children and made the world listen to them.

Why is this possible today? Because we are all more and more networked and children and young people are now growing up with the Internet and other media.

But nobody is born knowing how to use these media or how to prevent diseases. We all learn.

How to use a mosquito net to sleep to avoid malaria. How to wash our hands to prevent bacterial infection or COVID-19. How to use a condom to prevent HIV or other STIs.

These are learned behaviors and someone who is reliable and trustworthy has to teach us or we probably won’t listen.

I know from experience, and the world knows by more than a decade of evidence, that high quality, context and developmental sex education for teens is effective.

It leads to fewer HIV infections, fewer early or unwanted pregnancies, and fewer unhappy couples!
Puberty, healthy relationships, home-building preparation, and starting a family are among the aspects of life that comprehensive sex education (CSE) teaches in schools.

Dealing with such topics can no longer be avoided, as children are already exposed through many widespread channels.

Unless addressed first by a trusted source, our children run the risk of making the wrong turn in life because of the things they read on the internet, see on TV, or discuss with their friends.
CSE provides comprehensive education – not just about puberty, healthy relationships and preparation for starting a family.

Indeed, the goal of CSE is to help children become full personalities.

CSE teaches how to carefully think through actions and make decisions that are mature and healthy.
At this point we are on the verge of renewing our promise to our children and young people in East and Southern Africa to provide them with the best possible education for their health and well-being, as well as access to the services they need.

We promise them that we will do everything for their better future.

It tires me that there are still some people who want to rob our children of the education that provides them with all possible options and protections, including abstinence, delaying sexual activity, condoms, and other forms of contraception.

It tires me that there are some troublemakers who spread misinformation about sex education when we know that CSE results in healthier, happier, more fulfilled young people who have the information, attitudes, and skills to make better life decisions on their own.

Let us reject this misinformation, trust our governments and work together for a better, healthier Africa.

Sheila Tlou is co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, former Minister of Health (Botswana), respected human health advocate, and a recognized visionary leader and champion in her initiatives on HIV and AIDS, gender and women’s health.
Source: https://www.zimfocus.co.zw/index.php/2021/12/02/we-must-fulfil-our-promise-to-adolescents-young-people-newsday/
https://healthtimes.co.zw/2021/12/01/erhaben-unser-verslösungen-an-jugendliche-und-junge- Menschen/

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