A Teenager's Perspective on Sexual and Reproductive Health

My name is Susan Cossa. I'm fifteen years old. I want to talk to you about HIV and AIDS, abortion, and reproductive health advocacy for young adults like myself. I think a lot about these issues, because my mother works for Pathfinder International and has a degree in public health. However, I can't say the same about my peers.

In South Africa, where I currently live, teenagers don't give too much consideration to HIV and AIDS, or abortion. Sexual health is never a topic of conversation at lunch and my school doesn't offer many clear opportunities to discuss HIV and AIDS or abortion in the classroom.

Understanding and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health are desperately needed. My suggestion would be for schools to bring the students to health clinics that deal with HIV and AIDS or show documentaries about the issues in an attempt to wake students up to the reality that HIV and AIDS and teen pregnancy can happen to anybody if the proper caution isn't taken. That would definitely get people talking, aware, and curious. Another idea would be to require research projects in which the students have to research HIV and AIDS and/or teen pregnancies and wrongly performed abortions and then report on it.

If I didn't have an education on these issues, I'd probably go on assumptions and wrong information from friends who would be just as uninformed as I. Sadly, my old school in Mozambique never even thought to teach its students about reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, and abortion. I have no doubt that my former peers are engaging in sexual activities without a clue of the consequences, except perhaps that they might fall pregnant. What makes it even worse is that if they do become pregnant many would choose to go to the neighborhood "doctor" � who probably has no qualifications � to get an abortion, putting their lives under great peril. This doesn't need to happen. What if teams of people went into their neighborhoods to teach young people the consequences of engaging in sexual activities? What if they offered guidance and resources to assist pregnant girls and help them plan their families in the future? This could be achieved through strong efforts to reach the youth via sexual and reproductive health advocacy. These young women need sources of information that can guide them in the right direction as opposed to being fed wrong information by friends.

Education is a big step toward ending unsafe abortions and preventing diseases such as HIV and AIDS. I've seen the work that organizations like Pathfinder International have been able to do informing and empowering young people around the world. I believe that we can save lives and change the world � and it starts with the youth.

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