ARTICLE: Our Adolescents Have All The Info They Need
“I became pregnant at 14 years old,” Angie told UNFPA. Now 19, she lives with her son in a low-income area on the margins of Peru’s capital, Lima, in the densely populated Villa El Salvador District.
Angie recalls that she did not have the information she needed to avoid pregnancy. “I did not know about contraceptive methods. At high school, I still had not been given talks.”
As I read Angie’s story on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) website, it struck me just how fortunate Jamaica’s adolescents are and whether or not they realise it. A common thread linking adolescent pregnancy worldwide is the lack of information, health care services that do not meet their needs, and poor socio-economic circumstances.
Think about it South America really isn’t that far, but it is far-fetched to think that in this day and age high schoolers are not exposed to information as crucial as avoiding pregnancy and this exclusion blankets them in ignorance and steers them on a course that can change the course of their life for the worse.
Considering that ours is not a society where there are restrictions on either gender attending school, and/or being exposed to the health and family life education syllabus we should ensure that every adolescent is made aware of the opportunity and knowledge that is widely available, grabs it and runs with it sticking to the right track so as to realize their goals. To help direct students some schools already have the Hold-On-Hold-Off, Abstain, Get the Skills Intervention Programme (or Hold-On-Hold-Off Programme) which was conceptualised and established in 2009 by the National HIV/STI response and the National Family Planning Board (NFPB). This was with the general goal of promoting the importance of abstinence as a viable option for teenage students. Appearances by the NFPB’s Counselling staff at schools and community events has undoubtedly allowed for further information acquisition and sharing. Millions of dollars have been spent on mass media advertising to reach large numbers of adolescents and young people of child bearing age to arm them with this necessary guidance. If they never thought it applied to them before then having an appreciation of Angie’s situation may just be the formula for them to sit up and pay attention to what several government and private sector companies have been trying to tell them all along
Knowledge of their anatomy and physiology; contraceptive methods and how they work for maximum effectiveness in pregnancy prevention, knowledge of condom use, avoidance of sexually transmitted infections and identifying ways of engaging in overall responsible behaviours are all rightfully available to Jamaica’s adolescent population within the school setting.
National HIV/AIDS Policy
Click the link below to view the National HIV/AIDS Policy (Revised October 2017)
NFPB Safer Sex Week Mini Health Fair [PHOTOS] – 16.02.18
Project US/NFPB Safer Sex Week Sexpo [PHOTOS] – 13.02.18
Welcoming our new Executive Director – Ms. Lovette Byfield
Negotiating the condom this Valentine’s Day… and every day thereafter
Valentine’s Day, otherwise known as the ‘day of love’, is coming up and we know exactly what comes along with it… sex. The week of Valentine’s Day is also observed as Safer Sex Week in Jamaica, by no mistake. The National Family Planning Board, under the Ministry of Health, and all its partners, use this time to promote safer sex practices to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV and unplanned pregnancies.
Your Valentine’s Day list would probably include a special gift for him or her, chocolates, wine/champagne, a new outfit for date night… but what about your condoms?
The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) is encouraging persons to make a commitment to use condoms this Valentine’s Day and every day going forward, until you have been tested for HIV and other STIs, settled on one partner and may be ready to get pregnant.
We understand that this conversation with your partner can be difficult, especially if you have already started having unprotected sex. Here are some tips to help in your condom negotiation:
Select an appropriate time
Let’s be honest, the ‘heat of the moment’ may not be a good time to discuss condom use for the first time. We, at the NFPB, suggest bringing up the topic at a time when you are both relaxed, without too many distractions and when there are no children around. For example, during dinner or doing chores around the house.
Let them know you are serious
Let your partner know that you are serious about your health and his/her health as well. For example you may say, “I want to have sex with you, but I won’t unless we use a condom.”
If he/she says “no”
We know some partners may argue about using condoms, especially those who may not be wearing the right size condoms or who have not explored their options and as a result, do not enjoy sex with a condom. Don’t be surprised if you hear them say:
- “You nuh trust me?”
- “Yuh think me ah give yuh bun?”
- “I’m already on the pill so don’t worry, I won’t get pregnant”
- “It’s not as nice with the condom. Skin-to-skin feels better”
- “Yuh nuh love me?”
- “Nuh worry, I will pull out”
So you have to be prepared with your response. These could include:
- “I trust you, I just don’t trust your ex-girlfriends/ex-boyfriends.”
- “I just want us to start being more responsible.”
- “The pill only protects against pregnancy, not STIs. You cannot see or smell most STI infections. That means you can’t just look at a partner and know whether or not he or she is already infected. When was the last time you got tested?”
- “We can make it nice. There are so many condom styles – flavoured, ribbed, ultra thin – let’s explore and choose one we both like.”
- “I do love you, that’s why I want to make sure we are both safe and protected.”
- “Pulling out doesn’t always work. I enjoy sex more when I know I don’t have to worry.”
With a bit of creativity, you and your partner can have fun times using condoms. There are a wide variety of condom brands, sizes, textures, colours, scents, flavours and thicknesses available in Jamaica. Experiment to discover which type(s) you both prefer. You can also have fun putting the condom on… you can make this a regular part of foreplay. Just remember, try not to do anything that might tear, puncture, or otherwise damage the condom!
Stick to it
Condoms should not be a “sometimes thing”, but instead, an “every time thing”, unless you both have been tested within the last three months, have only one faithful, uninfected partner and/or want to get pregnant.
Condoms can be fun, pleasurable and they remove the fear of unplanned pregnancy and STIs during intercourse. Condoms are affordable and efficient and the NFPB is encouraging all persons to use condoms this Valentine’s Day and every day going forward. The NFPB also advises persons to take advantage of dual-method use, this is the use of the condom along with another contraceptive method at the same time. This could be the pill, injection, Jadelle implant or the intra-uterine device (IUD). Dual-method use provides that extra assurance in avoiding unplanned pregnancy.
Visit the National Family Planning Board at 5 Sylvan Avenue in Cross Roads or your nearest clinic to get your HIV test, contraceptives and condoms in time for Valentine’s Day and treat every day after that like it was Valentine’s Day.
The birds, the bees, and your little one
As we watch our children grow, we want to ensure that they will learn to make rational decisions. A major part of being responsible as an adult or even a teenager, is to practice safe sex. Engaging in sex too early and not being safe enough can be attributed to them not being guided by the people closest to them. Sometimes, these lessons come when it’s already too late. There is no good reason why parents should shy away from having that discussion with their young children.
So when is the right time to start talking to my child about sex? – you might ask. At the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), we recommend starting that talk from as early as age two. Obviously at this age, toddlers would not need to know the details of sexual activity, but they will need to know about their own bodies. At this age, children need to know the right names for their body parts and should not be afraid of saying the word ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’, after all, those are the medically correct names for the body parts. Once this comfort in appreciating body parts is established, parents can add new topics for discussion as the children grow older.
By the time a child turns five, they should understand that babies are not dropped off by storks and that birds and bees do not actually mate. It is our duty as parents to dispel all myths. We cannot place all responsibility on the school system to tackle this. If we want the best for our children, we have to play an active roll in teaching them about these very important issues.
By the age of ten, a child should be knowledgeable about sex and the reproductive system. Some may think it is too early, but at this age, a child should also be aware of sexually transmitted infections, how they are transmitted and how they can be prevented. Parents should also discuss with their child the possible consequences of having sex too early and the issues that arise from adolescent pregnancy, as many young girls can begin menstruating and young boys can begin to produce sperm around this time, making it possible for girls to get pregnant. This stage in a child’s life is their most curious stage, and they need their questions answered, and answered honestly by you.
Many parents who had their children during their teenage years usually wish that their children will not go down the same road. Be upfront and honest about the struggles you endured as an adolescent parent, steering your child away from following in your footsteps. This is a reality for many Jamaicans and it creates what we call ‘the cycle of poverty’ – when an adolescent parent suffers through poverty, the child is likely to suffer the same plight, and if that child does not make it out of pervert and also has an adolescent pregnancy, the cycle continues unabated.
There are life lessons that only we can teach our children. Let us not shy away from ‘that talk’ but instead, start the discussion from early – this makes it easier in the long run and may save your child from making irresponsible sexual decisions.
Written by: Renée Gauntlett
Communications & Public Relations Officer
National Family Planning Board
PHOTOS: World AIDS Day 2017
PHOTOS: World AIDS Day 2017 Proclamation & Church Service
Contest for Investigative Reporting in HIV