The Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) together with health partners note that adolescence is a critical time of formative growth that leads young people to make decisions that can determine their health and well-being for a lifetime, and influence the country’s sustainable development.
That is why the decision to launch the ‘Adolescent and Young People Outreach Health Services Programme in Colleges and Universities’, aimed at addressing the critical health concerns of adolescents in the country, shows the joint efforts by health partners in Zambia to put the youth at the centre of its priorities and future developmental plans.
The Program of ‘Adolescent and Young People Health Outreach to Tertiary Learning Institutions’ was launched by the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and developed with the support from, The United States (U.S.) President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CIDRZ, Mariestopes, University of Maryland, Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT) Zambia, Africa Directions, Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), Generation Alive, and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“The Zambia Demographic and Health Survey of 2013/2014 revealed that the HIV prevalence rate among the 20 to 24-year olds was four times higher among females (at 8.6%) than among males (at 2.5%). The report also indicated that sexual activity started early, and that sex was usually unprotected. The Government of the Republic of Zambia is concerned that there are high rates of unintended pregnancies and abortions among people with only 48% of the unmarried sexually active 20-24-year olds using condoms,” said Minister of Health, Hon Dr. Chitalu Chilufya.
The Ministry of Higher Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and all its partners, aims for this strategy to provide health, information and services to fulfil the needs of adolescents at various learning institutions in the country.
“The Programme we are launching today is meant to mitigate the impact of these health issues of public health concern among young people. The Ministry of Higher Education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health is employing a multisectoral approach through health promotion and demand creation, health service provision and strengthening leadership and governance at all levels of service delivery. Through this intervention, the government will ensure that our young people have not only the necessary health services but also the information on the access and use of these facilities,” said Minister of Education, Prof. Nkandu Luo.
And speaking earlier, on behalf of the health Cooperating Partners Group, Swedish Deputy Head of Mission, Ms. Karin Sverken, said “the outreach programs here strongly align with the priorities of Sweden. We welcome the idea of an outreach program which will enhance accessibility and utilization of health services for students in colleges and universities across the country. When we talk about adolescents and young people, let me underscore the importance of sexual reproductive rights, especially for adolescent girls and young women. We believe it is a fundamental right to receive comprehensive and fact-based education and information about your body and sexuality in order to make informed choices.”
Acting UNZA Vice Chancellor, Prof. Enala Tembo-Mwase, congratulated the Ministry of Health and its Partners on the tremendous effort and commitment in working with the institution to deliver health services at UNZA Clinic.
“… with the support and guidance from the Ministry of Health and its partners, UNZA clinic has integrated HIV services into routine health services and implemented smart care as an electronic health record management system at the facility,” said Prof. Tembo-Mwase.
And in giving the vote of thanks on behalf of students, UNZA Student Union (UNZASU) President, Mr. Warran Hamusunga, concluded by providing the youth perspective on adolescent health and stressing the importance of adolescent health as a sustainable development priority that needed to be tackled progressively.
“We the student populace will support this initiative. We hope that this great move will not end here but will be a reality in all tertiary institutions throughout the country. As the saying goes, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. We extend our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Health and all its partners for this initiative,” remarked the UNZASU President.