'Sex is not a free meal'

20 March 2017 | Health

Health minister Dr Bernard Haufiku says poverty is not the main driving force behind an increase in HIV infections – attitudes are the problem.

Haufiku says the majority of young people who contracted HIV in the past three years could blame their negative attitude towards the virus and their refusal to wait for the right time to have sexual intercourse.

He further slammed the parents and guardians who are supposed to protect the youth, saying they have in fact contributed to the spread of HIV.

“Poverty is part of it, but the larger component is actually our attitude … you get infected by older men, your uncles, your dads and even your grannies are giving you HIV,” Haufiku said.

Haufiku was speaking on Saturday at the handover ceremony of a prefabricated office donated by Unicef to the Ou Nick Health Centre, which helps adolescents living with HIV.

“Why are teenagers getting HIV from older men?” Haufiku asked, before explaining that studies proved that it was due to transactional sex.

“In Namibia, transactional sex takes place with huge age gaps,” he said.

“I mean, if I am 50 and you are 15, what do you think you are compared to me? I have been through life… a man wants to please himself,” he said.

The minister also emphasised sexual education, saying parents and guardians should not shy away from talking about sex with their children.

He pointed out that most of the youth involved in sexual activities were between the ages of 15 and 24 and were still in school.

“We will end this epidemic by being bold and to the point, that's what we need to tell you. I want to tell you that sex is not a free meal, certainly not a cup of tea, not a glass of wine. Sex is a means of reproduction - that's the purpose of sex,” Haufiku said.

Unicef country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa said parents were not doing their children any favours by not talking to them about sexual matters.

“We know that in most cases parents are uncomfortable to talk about sex and sexuality with their children; they therefore miss out on the opportunity to encourage delayed sexual debut or give the adolescents the right options for safer sex,” De Sousa said.

She added that for economic and cultural reasons, adolescent girls and young women continued to acquire HIV from much older men, while many other young people remained unaware of their HIV-positive status for years.

She added that reaching the infected and affected adolescent girls and young women with information, treatment and services remained a challenge in Namibia because of stigma and discrimination.

KENYA KAMBOWE

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