Today the Jamaican Ministry of Health has launched its annual February week of activities budded “safer sex week”. The week commemorates the ministry’s efforts to promote safe sexual practices among the Jamaican population especially the youth. An awesome move by the ministry of health of health but over the past 17 years since its inception in 1994 one has to ask, how effective has this week of education, testing and intervention been?
This year the theme for safer sex week is “Protect Your Love… Use a Glove”, the ministry has also announced that the emphasis for this year’s week of activities will be testing of individuals. Now I know the week has just started and I shouldn’t be so negative but there are a few concerns I need to address urgently. The first is the marriage of the theme and the focus for the week, now when one looks at the theme the first thing that comes to mind is to increase condom usage and practices whether it be male or female not the promotion HIV/AIDS testing. In my view I believe this is a great mistake made on part of the ministry and it will in no way provide the results they seek.
The second concern I have is the lack of a youth focus within the week of activities and the promotion of the event. It would have been awesome to see the ministry acknowledging the year of the youth which ends august 2011 and sought to strategically place emphasis or create a merger of the two. With HIV/AIDS being the second leading cause of death among the youth population and there exist a one percent prevalence rate among Jamaica youth the idea of youth centered/oriented safer sex week 2011 would have been awesome.
Finally I want to speak briefly on the not so recent referral system which was brought to the table in 2006 however was dismissed by our very own Education Minister Andrew Holness. The referral system provided a mechanism that equips guidance counselors, teachers and peer educators with skills necessary for referring students for follow-up sexual and reproductive health services not offered within the context of the school environment. Now minister Holness and other like minded individuals decided that such a system does not uphold with the morals and principles of the society however we see the everyday reality that more and more young girls are becoming high school drop outs and teens moms( I think me need a Jamaican version of mtv’s teen mom here in Jamaica). There exists the new trend where girls are having anal and oral sex in order to deceive their parents and gynecologist whenever they are taken for a checkup. According to reports the mean age at first sexual encounter is continuing to decrease year by year.
Again I confess my desire for a more youth oriented safer sex for 2011. With that all said I must however commend the ministry and hope that my wishes will be granted before the week is through.