Strengthening HIV & SRHR Service Uptake by Youths in Zimbabwe
Sexual Reproductive Health uptake and HIV prevention among Youths
With support from UKAID/DFID, FACT reached out to 59 348 young people aged 10-24 (20 011 males and 39 337 females) in Mashonaland West and Manicaland Provinces of Zimbabwe working in nine wards in each of the selected five districts. The goal of the program is to reduce new HIV infections and improve access to SRH services by young people. Below are the key outcomes expected from the SRH project;
i. Youth in selected areas have access to correct information on HIV and SRH
ii. Youth in selected areas accessing HIV testing and counselling and other SRH services
iii. Health service delivery points offering youth friendly integrated HIV and SRH services
iv. Youth friendly environment created in the communities.
To achieve the objectives, the project uses three major approaches which are Join-in-Circuit (JIC) on HIV, Love and Sexuality; Youth Friendly Corners and Sista2Sista clubs. The table below shows the number of young people reached per approach disaggregated by age range.
Youth friendly corners
Achievements worth noting include unlimited access to the following;
a) Opinion leaders actively participating in ASRH awareness
Opinion leaders are important in addressing Sexual Reproductive Health issues for young people and should not be left out. They have the power to influence positive behaviour change if given the platform and recognized in project implementation. FACT therefore, continued to engage opinion leaders in implementation of the SRH and HIV project.
During the reporting period, 227 (that is, 132 females and 95 males) leaders from churches, traditional, professionals like School heads, Nurses, Victim Friendly and Youth Officers and School Development Committees, were engaged in dialogue on SRH issues affecting young people in their communities. Discussions were mainly on progress of the project and how leaders can meaningfully and effectively contribute or influence young people in accessing SRH services at their local clinics. Through discussions, leaders were able to identify SRH issues affecting youths in their communities. These were commonly identified as power relationship issues which make youths unable to freely make their own SRH decisions and choices. Issues such as early marriages, school drop-outs, drug abuse, prostitution, and child headed families and poverty are affecting youths greatly. Leaders identified their role which they saw as important because of the power of influence they have, and could contribute to young people’s access to SRH information and services.
Engaging community structures, results in ownership and sustainability of the intervention. It is viewed as a catalyst for communities to be able to identify and prioritize Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health. Community dialogues also opened eyes of the opinion and religious leaders on cultural and religious norms that disadvantage girls during their development. Leaders came up with immediate strategies to raise awareness on such practices some of which included inclusion of SRH in community meeting platforms for awareness raising and also strengthening already existing structures for reporting and referral for services.
b) Improving SRH behaviours through Sista2Sista clubs
Sista2Sista club sessions were completed and 12 graduation ceremonies were conducted in December 2016. A total of 54 in Mashonaland West province and 69 in Manicaland Sista2Sista clubs were formed. Young girls appreciated the knowledge they gained from the sessions which they said helped them to make informed decisions. They have become more cautious of their SRH needs and are able to control some bodily demands in a bid to delay early sexual debut.
From their testimonies, it was observed that some girls had already indulged and were in relationships. The knowledge they got emphasized the need to focus on their education which they appreciated as the foundation for their future.
My name is Chipo (Not her real name):
I am 15 years old, doing Form 3 at Chitakatira Secondary School. I used to engage in sexual activities but after attending Sista2Sista sessions, I realised it was all wrong. I stopped immediately and began to focus on my school work. I gained confidence and was tested for HIV. I am a young mother aged 23. I got married in 2011 and have been in marriage for six years. I have four children. Sista2Sista sessions helped me gain information on family planning. I am now on long term method and that enables me to work and raise my children.
c) Promoting uptake of HTS through JIC runs and establishment of youth friendly corners
FACT volunteers using the JIC mobile learning tool. JIC approach is part of the larger behavior change campaign that promotes person to person communication and gives an opportunity for discussion SRH information by young people aged 10 – 24 at JIC runs, establishment of Youth Friendly Corners (18 in Mashonaland West province and 15 in Manicaland) resulted in empowerment of young people to make critical and informed decisions on service uptake which included HIV testing, family planning and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC). Youth friendly service provision at health facilities by trained nurses has promoted uptake of comprehensive SRH and HIV services. The engagement of stakeholders in SRH and HIV issues has enhanced their participation and involvement in creating an enabling environment for young people to access information and services.