#BeFree youth against Aids

27 April 2021 | Youth

#BeFree remains committed to creating safe spaces for the youth to articulate their needs and solutions.

#BeFree, in partnership with Youth Against AIDS, engaged in an intergenerational dialogue with students from the University of Namibia (Unam) main campus, Khomasdal campus, International University of Management (IUM), University of Science and Technology (Nust) at the Unam main campus.

First Lady Monica Geingos and Winnie Byanyima, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS executive director and under-secretary of the United Nations, engaged with the students.

In her welcoming remarks, Beatha Ileka, a #BeFree ambassador and One Economy Foundation director, expressed her gratitude to the students for attending the dialogue and applauding the #BeFree movement amplifying the voices of young people.

Unveiling the condom dispenser, Daniel Nagel, the chief executive officer and boardman of the Ohhh! Foundation, emphasised the need for destigmatising the use of condoms and ensuring that young people have access to information and resources on safe sex and STIs.

These condom dispensers will be installed on university campuses countrywide.

“Installing these dispensers does not mean that we are encouraging sex; we are, however, aware that young people are having sex and would like to ensure that they do it safely,” Nagel said.

The youthful panel articulated experiences such as cultural shock, peer pressure, intergenerational relationships and financial problems as some critical challenges tertiary students face.

They also touched on how Covid-19 has exposed the cracks in the education system, especially inequality in accessing online learning, which exacerbates students’ mental health challenges.

The panel shared that people are sexual beings and should not be uncomfortable talking about sex, adding that universities should help to create platforms to provide young people information to ensure safe sex.

The panel further articulated the stark differences between societal attitudes, perceptions and opinions towards the sexual behaviour of boys and girls and how this influences choices on safe sex.

Wrapping up the discussion, emphasis was placed on limited psychosocial support in communities and on campuses that restrict young people's support.

During an interactive dialogue with Byanyima, Geingos highlighted that young girls aged between 16 and 24 have a three times higher chance of contracting HIV than their peers.

“This can be due to intergenerational relationships and transactional sexual relations. I urge the youth to go set the world on fire by starting to think beyond the geographical constraints of one’s country, think about how you’re going to make a difference beyond the borders of your city or country,” she said.

Byanyima shared her journey in activism and how her upbringing influences her passion for equality, justice and peace. She said her journey towards equality started with her upbringing and her relationship with her father.

“I live by the principle that women and men are equal. Young people should stop diagnosing people with their eyes,” she said.

Geingos mentioned that people on ARV treatment look just as healthy as any other person. “You never know what the HIV status of the person next to you is, so be sensitive about your comments. Safe sex under coercion is rape. Consent under the influence is not lawfully recognised as Namibian law requires affirmative consent,” the First Lady said.

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