School Health Week is a government initiative aimed at addressing the lack of basic health care services available to disadvantaged children in rural areas. Part of this programme includes paying special attention to health screening in high-priority areas, as well as education about menstrual sanitation and sexual education. It’s an alarming fact that many South African schoolgirls are forced to miss school because they are unable to afford sanitary products. Likewise, teenage pregnancy and HIV infections are exceptionally high in our country and this is often due to a lack of sexual awareness. Bloom Financial Services, a leading health insurance broker, together with Momentum Health4Me, are in full support of this initiative. Find out how you can be part of alleviating poverty and the importance of healthcare for children.
What is sexual health awareness?
Sexual health awareness is the knowledge and understanding of those matters relating to the physical, mental and social well-being of the reproductive system, its functions and processes. This applies to both men and women. While reproductive health relates to conception and childbirth, it also extends to matters concerning safe sex, a healthy reproductive system and access to family planning services.
The importance of sexual education in schools
Many teenagers are sexually active but are not fully aware of safe sex practices. Sexual education empowers the youth with the knowledge they need to care for their bodies and to practice safe sex. It helps stop the spread of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections, prevents teenage pregnancies and breaks down stereotypes, like those that believe it’s only girls who should be responsible for preventing pregnancy. School Health Week tackles the subject of sexual education by encouraging open and constructive discussions with both boys and girls about these topics. Sex education also makes schoolchildren aware of sexual abuse and the issue of consensual intercourse.
Reasons why learners need to be made aware of sexual health issues:
- There are an estimated 357 million new sexually transmitted infections each year, the most predominant being chlamydia, syphilis, trichomoniasis and gonorrhoea.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common viral infections of the reproductive tract and is linked to the development of cervical cancer. It’s estimated that more than 290 million women are infected with the HPV virus.
- Family planning can help provide information about the types and methods of contraception available for both men and women.
- HIV is spread through unprotected sex. This, in turn, causes AIDS if left untreated. It’s estimated that 14% of South Africans are infected with HIV and the majority fall into the 15-24 year age group. Sexual education will help teenagers practice safe sex with the use of condoms and will encourage them to get an HIV/AIDS screening test. Should they test positive, they can start an antiretroviral treatment programme to manage the condition.
What is period poverty?
School Health Week also tackles the issue of menstrual sanitation. Some people don’t realise that having access to basic sanitary products is a privilege. It’s estimated that three out of ten girls in South Africa miss school for up to a week each month when they have their period. That’s the equivalent of 30% of schoolgirls each year. In some cases, girls are having to use unhygienic or impractical materials like newspapers, dirty cloths or toilet paper when they have their period. Health experts are encouraging people to break the silence about this natural bodily function in order to destigmatise the shame, myths and taboos often associated with female menstruation. There are also many organisations and government programmes that have stepped forward to help provide basic sanitary care and products to girls in underprivileged areas. You can help be a part of the solution.
How can you help children’s health services?
There are a number of organisations dedicated to promoting good health for children in South Africa who need your support to make a difference. Some of these include:
- Adopt a School Foundation
This non-profit is dedicated to creating an enhanced teaching and learning environment at disadvantaged schools across the country. Part of Adopt a School Foundation’s efforts includes the Healthy Schools, Healthy Champions Project, which involves the roll-out of sanitation, puberty, sexual and reproductive health programmes.
- Dignity Dreams
This organisation provides washable sanitary pads for women and young girls. Each environmentally-friendly product is the equivalent of 144 regular pads. The group is responsible for the manufacture and distribution of the pads as well. You can get involved by linking Dignity Dreams as a beneficiary to the My School Card from Woolworths or you can make a donation directly to the organisation.
- Sub Padz
Founder, Sue Barnes, started Sub Padz based on a request for sanitary pad donations for underprivileged schoolgirls in her local area. After assessing the need and the huge impact the lack of basic hygiene products was having on girl’s education, she founded Sub Padz, which are washable sanitary pads and panties. The products are designed to last a girl between three to five years.
- Save the Children
This organisation partners with both people and companies to bring relief and support to children’s health issues, including addressing malnutrition and providing sanitary products for girls.
Health4Me HIV Benefit
The Momentum Gold Health4Me health insurance plan offers a comprehensive HIV Benefits cover to those who have received a positive diagnosis and require chronic medication. You will need to register for this benefit in order to qualify. Thereafter, beneficiaries are entitled to receive monthly antiretroviral medications in accordance with the Momentum CareCross Network HIV medication formulary.
Health4Me day to day health insurance benefits
Sexual health awareness and access to basic sanitary products are issues affecting South African schoolchildren. It shouldn’t be ignored, which is why Bloom and Momentum Health4Me encourage you to support School Health Week and to get involved by supporting some of these worthy causes in their efforts to end period poverty, unplanned pregnancies, the spread of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. You can rely on Health4Me for day to day health insurance benefits for you and your family.
Get health insurance cover with Bloom and Health4Me who can advise you about the best medical insurance plans to suit your budget and needs.
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