Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights experts and advocates have emphasized that providing age-appropriate sexuality education to children who are currently out of school will help in addressing HIV and other SRH related challenges for young people.
The submission was made at a High-level meeting, that brought together various parties to discuss how sexuality education can be provided to young people who are out of school on Thursday, at the Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) Head Office- Ntinda.
Sexuality Education involves a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about human sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender role.
Exploring the guidelines on Sexuality Education for Out of School Young People in Uganda (OOSYP), which is still in the pipeline, Patience Namanya, SRHR Coordinator Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD) noted that the guidelines seek to provide direction on how to work effectively with OOSYP and parents in the provision of sexuality education and related services, mainstream adolescent sexual reproductive health services for OOSYP in existing out of school programs and interventions and also provide a supplemental resource for sexuality education for OOSYP, parents, and guardians.
Dr. Daniel Byamukama, the Head of HIV Prevention, UAC said that due to high HIV infection rates among young people, especially during COVID-19, the guidelines will help to address the burden.
“We notice that from age of 15, the number of new HIV Infections begin to increase. In fact, girls between 15_19 have the highest number of new HIV infections, followed by girls of 20-24,” he said.
Dr. Byamukama said that because of adolescence, young people are experimenting, and ought to have received guidance from their parents on how to handle their changing biology, bodies, emotional needs.
“But, most children don’t receive guidance on responsible living, how to handle their emotions, changing bodies. And because of that, they end up being vulnerable to HIV,” he said.
The lack of parental guidance was attributed to the fact that many parents have limited education and skills to approach the issues of sexuality; broken homes, and others.
Targeting the child who’s out of school, Dr. Byamukama said that such a framework is important because these are so vulnerable.
“We are coming up with an innovation of using key civic, community leaders to provide this guidance at every opportunity so that we can save these children from getting early pregnancies or contracting HIV. Those that are out of school are extremely vulnerable because most of the HIV infections that are occurring among young girls are among those out of school,” he said.
Waiswa Batambuze, Uganda Key Population Consortium – UKPC said that the guidelines are targeting the different age groups, and will help to address the various SRHR myths and misconceptions.
Allan Nsubuga, Head, Sexual Minorities Uganda noted that the framework is important because young people need information, that basically speaks to the totality of their lives and who they actually are.
However, he recommended that once the guidelines have been approved, access to sexuality education should be non-discriminatory, targeting those without phones and the internet as well.
“There should be some information on the radios for them to understand these issues. Organizations should be allowed to produce materials that provide this information to out-of-school youth through outreaches,” he said.