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It is not practical! UN agency urges countries to ditch abstinence campaign for teenagers

A billboard advert promoting abstinence. UNESCO has questioned the sustainability of preaching abstinence to teenagers citing that it was not practical. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a cultural agency of the United Nations, has urged countries to stop preaching abstinence to teenagers because it is not practical.

UNESCO’s HIV and Health Education Advisor for Eastern and Southern African (ESA) Patricia Machawira, said a majority of the teenagers are sexually active, adding that it is high the governments stopped wasting time preaching abstinence but focus on promoting safe sex.

Ms Machawira was speaking at the ongoing capacity building training for media on Early and Unintended Pregnancy at Sandton City, in South Africa on Tuesday.

Uganda ranks fourth among 10 Eastern and Southern African countries with highest Early and Unintended Pregnancy cases among girls aged 15-19 years, according to a study conducted recently. The findings show that four out of every 10 girls in Uganda, have had early and unintended pregnancies.

In Namibia, seven out of every 10 girls were pregnant, have given birth or had an abortion within the same age bracket. Lesotho and Malawi came second and third respectively. Other countries where the study was conducted include Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Ms Machawira insisted that Eastern and Southern African countries should put the focus on real practices that can help girls not to conceive early and avoid being infected with HIV through promoting condom use and contraception.

“The percentage of young women aged 15-19 years who had been pregnant was high in all countries, more than 25 per cent in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. There is evidence that teenage pregnancy has not decreased over time,” she said.

President Museveni has always been critical of messages about condom use and safe male medical circumcision, which experts say reduce the risk of HIV infection, and instead preached abstinence.

Speaking during the commemoration of World Aids Day last year, the President expressed displeasure with current anti-HIV campaign messages that centre on the use of condoms and safe male circumcision.

“Uganda was one of the countries with the lowest condom use per capita, we departed from the main message, which was to instil fear to avoid promiscuity. Condom use was meant to be a last resort in circumstances where one could not abstain,” the President said.

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