Adolescents Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS Campaign
Adolescents are presently living in a world riddled with HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion practices and more. Every day, adolescents make life and death choices with little or no knowledge about the consequences. Girls are extremely vulnerable. Whether approached from the standpoint of prevention or access to services, care and support, prevention and care are mutually reinforcing.
According to the United Nation Fund for Population (UNFPA), there are 580 million adolescents in the world of which four out of five live in developing countries. Available evidence points to a fact that, girls’ pregnancy can have immediate consequences including health, education and income earning potential. The risk of maternal death associated with adolescent girls fewer than 15 years as well as obstetric fistulae is higher than their older peers.
Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are intertwined with issues of human rights. The enjoyment of these rights have the potential of putting adolescents in a better position to unleash their full potentials. On the other hand, if the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs of adolescents are not comprehensibly addressed, they will have to face additional hurdles in their efforts to find a decent job or become positively engaged in their communities. Evidence available demonstrates that, adolescents’ reproductive health (YRH) outcomes are closely linked with expanded educational, accurate and accessible information and economic opportunities (UNFPA, 2012). Moreover, programs specifically targeted at adolescents in schools in other parts of the world have been found to have motivated young people to postpone sexual activity or practice safer sexual behaviour by helping them understand the long-term effect of their decisions and the importance of planning for their futures
There are various policies and program initiatives in Ghana that seek to promote adolescents and Persons Infected and Affected by HIV and AIDS access to Reproductive Health and Care and Support Services including: the Spirit and Purpose of the Fouth Republican Constitution(1992), the National Adolescent Reproductive Health Strategy (2016-2022), the National Youth Policy(2020), the Ghana AIDS Commission ACT,206 (Act 9380), and the global Sustainable Development Goals particularly; 1,2 &3 respectively. The Policy and Strategy emphasis strengthening linkages among stakeholders in the formulation, implementation of S/RH programs for young people.
According to the Office of Population Health Bureau for Global Health, US Agency for International Development (USAID/Ghana,2003), some unmet needs of adolescents in Ghana that need urgent attention include; access to sexual and reproductive health information and communication, more enabling and supportive community environment; and improve access to quality reproductive services by adolescents.
The methods adopted thus far in educating and empowering adolescents to make decisions about their reproductive health needs have mostly been by adults using the top-down communication approaches. It has generally been correctional or at best reactive and negative in approach. Adults including parents and teachers turn to load young people with information without relating it to today’s context. The goal almost always appears to be around marriage: however, is marriage often a goal young people aspire to?
Young people desperately need help in sorting out peer pressure, boredom, negative media influences including pornography, love verses infatuation, myths from facts, reproductive anatomy and physiology, self-esteem and decisions making, economic pressures, dysfunctional family life and where, when and from who to seek reproductive health information without being stigmatized and much more.
Investing therefore, in human capital in developing countries like Ghana can best be guaranteed by promoting and protecting adolescents RH rights access to quality information and services.
Accordingly, Center for Development Initiative’s, (CDI) program is aimed at partnering with state and non-state actors to promote access to quality information and care and support services for adolescents and individuals, families and communities impacted by HIV and AIDS.
The program and strategies take a multi-sector approach to training motivated Peer educators and facilitation the formation of support groups, increasing community and school based awareness creation efforts including, in the case of S/RH campaign strategy, creation of ideal platforms for young person’s to influence SRH policies, strengthening referrals and cross referrals between S/RH and HIV mother-to-child HIV transmission, scaling-up Anti-retroviral drugs for PLHIV and HIV stigma reduction campaigns.
HIV is a viral infection and medically speaking, AIDS is the consequence of a viral infection. However, the issues raised by the epidemic are far from being purely medical or clinical. They touch on cultural norms and practices, issues of gender, human responsibility, poverty, and sexuality.
In addition, the program strategies places emphasis on capacity building for quality data collection on the intervention processes, outputs and short term outcomes to support the sub-governance and national governance as well as non-state and development partners efforts to tear down the many barriers to HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support and adolescents’ access to accurate S/RH information and services, so that pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections among young persons in general and the project target groups in particular.
Managing the challenges of HIV/AIDS such as orphans care is increasingly becoming a challenge because of the inability of the extended family system to play its traditional social protection role of providing for their survival and development needs.
CDI has a track record of successful partnership building, facilitating adolescents led initiatives in the formation of school based clubs and building the capacity of marginalized populations including Persons Living With HIV and AIDS (PLHIS) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) in Policy Influencing (PI) at districts, regional and national levels and therefore, has effective collaboration and networking with likeminded government and non-governmental organizations across the decentralized governance structures of Ghana and beyond that creates an enabling environment for this program to continue to thrive.
CDI’s HIV Care and Support initiatives are focused on Northern Ghana for the simple reason that, people in these regions do not have the same access to services and livelihood opportunities as their counterparts in other parts of the country. The aim is to improve the nutrition, health status and broadening the livelihood opportunities for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) through the following:
- Provision of Emergency, food basket schemes.
- Funding support for members of PLHIV in support groups to pay for life saving drugs including the treatment of opportunistic infections not covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and
- Facilitating the formation and the capacities of support groups in self-help.
During support groups meetings, persons infected with HIV come to learn and share by hearing about other PLHIV experiences including daily problem-solving and coping mechanisms for daily living.