Thursday, 7 February 2008

Youth sexuality: Value yourself and attain your potential

African youths have been enjoined to value their sexuality as much as they value the possessions they expend energy and their mearge resources to acquire. This would, not only allow for positive self expression but bring about a reduction in HIV transmission through sex. “If you can use so much money to buy skin and beauty products, why not value your sexuality, why treat your genitals with so low value that anybody can be your partner? Why disregard your genitals such that you do not even know how it looks, or how to take care of it adequately?”

However, there are various challenges that young people with HIV face in the African society and these include: Inadequate youth-friendly services, Challenges of drug dosage for adolescents; Stigma from health workers, community and peers on assumed mode of transmission; Stigma in school at/on admission; Stigma from peers on assumed mode of infection, Sex abuse/seduction and Inability to freely express one’s sexuality.

Leading this discussion was Rolake Odetoyinbo, executive Director of Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA) yesterday at the Youth Sexuality Institute of the conference taking place at the Taraba Hall of the International Conference centre Abuja. As the discussion progressed, it was agreed that the popular ABCs of prevention are still legit, there has been efforts to review t and thus make it more realistic especially for youths. The revised version should read thus A- Accept and acknowledge that sex happens; B –Be realistic and wake up t reality; C- Choices must be available; D- Delayed sexual activity should be encouraged amongst the youths; E- Empower people to negotiate safer sex or say No to unwanted sex; F- Financial independence for women.

Stigma and discrimination, power dynamics between men and women were identified as some of the prominent forces driving the spread the epidemic. These were besides religion and beliefs, the culture of silence and denial and harmful traditional practices.

According to Odetoyinbo, there are a lot of unspoken issues concerning HIV/AIDS and the youths in Africa and particularly in Nigeria. To counteract these issues and save lives, the youths themselves have been tasked to change their perceptions of the disease and their reactions to issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Armed with the correct information, the youths in this age are better equipped not only to live their life more productively, but have the power to curb the further spread of the epidemic in the continent.

* By Nnenna Ike

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