In an effort to improve sexual and reproductive health and HIV (SRH-HIV) related outcomes amongst migrants, including migrant adolescents, young people and sex workers, the Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) – HIV Knows No Borders programme was launched earlier this week (8 May) in Mbabane, Swaziland.
The launch of the programme, which is scheduled to continue into the year 2020 in six countries within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region was attended by Ministers of Health, members of Parliament, local chiefs, adolescents and young people.
The initiative, which is supported by USD 11 million in funding from The Kingdom of the Netherlands, will also serve non-migrant adolescents, young people, sex workers and others living in migration-affected communities.
The SRHR project already has been launched in Zambia, and Swaziland with South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi set to follow.
“We are seeing 70 new positive cases of HIV amongst young women and adolescents every week within this region,” said Regional Migration Health Co-ordinator Dr. Erick Ventura.
In speaking of the prevalence of HIV within the region, Dr. Ventura said that although HIV may “not be a new issue, it continues to be a relevant issue.”
The SADC region is home to the largest HIV positive population in the world, with an estimated 14.7 million people living with HIV, which represents 59 percent of the total population of people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa and 42 percent of the total number worldwide.
This new programme implements a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach that addresses problems that cause the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Also targeted are high unwanted teenage pregnancies and maternal mortality in Southern Africa.
“We need to intensify services for SRH-HIV for the adolescent age group,” said Mduduzi Dlamini, from Swaziland’s Ministry of Health.
Swaziland has come a long way in attempting to curtail the scourge of HIV and the AIDS epidemic in the country, at one time the highest prevalence rates in the world.
In 2001, the Kingdom of Swaziland established The National Emergency Response Council on HIV and AIDS (NERCHA) to coordinate and facilitate the National Multi-sectoral HIV/AIDS response and oversee the implementation of the national strategic plans and frameworks.
In a similar fashion, the SRHR project is not just being implemented at a policy level, but is also reaching out to local chiefs, traditional leaders, parents and young people living in the Hhohho Region. Young people are encouraged to get tested, seek treatment and access medical assistance for pregnancy.