June 14, 2017

Parents, principals will no longer decide whether pupils access condoms

Written by Laura Lopez Gonzalez

Pupils in school

This article originally appeared on Bhekisisa.

School governing bodies and parents will no longer be able to prevent pupils from getting condoms at schools, according to a new basic education department policy released on Wednesday.

Almost a quarter of all new HIV infections are among young women between the ages of 15 and 24, data from the Human Sciences Research Council show. But condoms have been largely absent from the one place where most young people spend much of their time: school.

Until now, policy allowed school governing bodies to develop their own plans to address HIV infections among pupils that took into “account the needs and values” of schools and communities. This allowed schools and community leaders to have the final say about whether condoms were available on school grounds – often a hard “no”.

In its new policy on HIV, the basic education department says parents and staff can no longer keep condoms out of schools and that roving health department teams or other qualified health workers will provide sexual and reproductive health services to pupils.

This includes contraception for pupils 12 years and older as well as youth-friendly health services such as screening for sexually transmitted infection – preferably in their home languages. Mobile health teams already screen some pupils for dental, eye and hearing problems. Where these teams don’t exist, the policy says alternatives must be found.

It is the education department’s first HIV policy in almost 20 years and replaces a 1999 policy that has since fallen out of step with the law.

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