Young people make up about a third of the country’s population, but health services are not tailored to their needs.
South Africa’s healthcare system risks leaving young people behind as it moves towards universal health coverage, the last health check of the country.
The 346-page paper released by the Health Systems Trust explores the public health system issues and solutions that emerged from many sources and experts in 2019. This edition focused on topics such as national health insurance ( NHI), universal health coverage, the health market survey as well as HIV financing.
Despite the youth representing a third of the country’s population, according to Statistics South Africa, Health services are not designed to meet their needs, research shows.
The report says the public health system needs to be strengthened in a number of ways to meet the unique needs of young people. This includes defining and monitoring universal health coverage indicators, as well as monitoring the quality of services that young people receive from public facilities.
To achieve this, research suggests increasing the capacity of health workers to provide youth-friendly services.
A recent study found that less than half of HIV-positive adolescents aged 15-19 have access to treatment. Traditional methods of accessing treatment in health facilities are a factor that makes adolescents reluctant to go to clinics for medication.
The review also states that universal health care for young people at the primary health care level should focus on screening and early detection of risk factors in order to avoid long-term health consequences as they age. adult. This early intervention is a step towards the prevention and promotion of healthy behaviors such as access and use of contraceptives, which may reduce morbidity and mortality in adolescents.
Although adolescent and youth friendly health services are enshrined in the policy, research found that there was no real evidence of the strategy being implemented in clinics. The report recommends a budget that provides separate funding to improve adolescent health services. Special funding is money whose use is restricted and can only be used for specific purposes, which in this case is youth-centered health services.
HIV prevention for girls and young women
Adolescent girls and young women are one of the groups most vulnerable to HIV infection, according to recent national HIV plan. About 2,000 young women between the ages of 15 and 25 are infected with the virus every week. This makes HIV prevention among women and girls in this age group a priority.
The review focused on a study of 240 young women from Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal. The study found that some participants associated prevention with unwanted pregnancy and were more likely to be proactive in taking the initiative to prevent pregnancy.
A number of participants viewed negative HIV results as an indicator that they are doing well in avoiding the virus.
“Many had adopted HIV testing as a prevention strategy, calling testing more achievable and under their control than actual preventive behaviors such as condom use. Some also interpreted a negative HIV test result as an indication that their approach to HIV prevention was already adequate, giving them a false sense of self-confidence and potentially reinforcing high-risk behaviors, ”the research reveals.
The study also found that these young women overestimated their ability to assess risk and would rate a man’s health “with the naked eye”.
Young women often engage in high-risk behaviors due to factors such as lack of community and family support, research shows. In some cases, those who do not have support structures do not know about relationships or HIV, and those who are knowledgeable, such as local nurses, do not identify with them.
Experts recommend a five-step approach to reducing risky behavior in young women. This includes helping them create their own knowledgeable opinions about good sexual practice, using their experience to form their own rules for managing relationships and sexual health, and being firm in their own rules regarding partners. and sex life.
Researchers recommend that HIV prevention strategies be aligned with the relationship goals of girls and young women, and that communication around HIV prevention be relevant and framed around how to balance relationships and sexual health .
The study further suggests that the language used to communicate with young women should not be HIV-focused but assertive.
“Move away from HIV-related communication that mainly focuses on ‘test and treat’ and initiate a reactive rather than preventive strategy, and adopt more proactive and self-protective behaviors. Supervise HIV testing as part of the prevention process rather than as an end point. – Health-e News