JIS News

For young people who are bombarded with subliminal and direct messages from the media, peers and society, making appropriate decisions about their sexuality can be difficult.
According to Counsellor Marge Roper, of the National Family Planning Board, young people are dealing with a wider variety of sexual issues than before, and the choices they make can sometimes have dire consequences.
The age-old problem of teenage pregnancy is still prevalent, but in addition, other ills and challenges have reared their heads.
“We notice that young persons are going into an alternative means of sex, which is anal sex, which does not cause pregnancy. We have persons now who believe the myth that anal sex is safe; it is safe as it relates to pregnancy, but it is also risky when you look at the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) that are out there,” she tells JIS News.
Besides this, young persons have a number of other sexual issues to deal with, the Counsellor points out. These include transactional sex, where youngsters engage in these activities for money and material gain. “They will have sex with someone for a cell-phone, lunch money, for bus fare, for name brand clothes, for certain things that will help them to look a certain way, and be up there with their peers…it’s not that parents don’t know sometimes of this, but it is also that (some) parents are sending their children to engage in these activities, because they are not sometimes able to support their children financially,” she explains.
Faced with peer pressure and inadequate home support, which can lead to behaviours such as these, young people need constant guidance and support from reliable individuals who are equipped to answer the many questions and concerns that they may have.
To this end, Health and Family Life Education Specialists (HFLES) have been placed in high schools islandwide, as this is the space where young people spend most of their time interacting.
The National Family Planning Board is seeking to further educate HFLES on how to more effectively guide students with some of the issues and decisions they have to make about sex. This will be done through a series of workshops.
Training Officer with the National Family Planning Board, Egla Smiekle, explains that, “the goal of working with these workshops is to strengthen the capacity of these persons on adolescent sexual and reproductive health in the schools… and by reproductive health we don’t mean just contraceptive. Reproductive health is the whole being of the person and their development and so forth. We will be looking at specific issues, such as peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, STIs, HIV and AIDS,” she said.
She points to the misconception that if youngsters are informed about contraceptives, they will use it, and thus engage in sexual activities.
“Education is a tool that you can use, but it does not mean that you’re going to use it to become pregnant or to experiment with sex acts. Outside of abstinence, you are going to find that there are persons who are going to be sexually active, no matter how much you stress and pay attention to abstinence. That’s where we want our adolescents and our students to be, not to be sexually active, but you will find that some will fall out of that realm and they are sexually active and they need guidance also,” she argues.
The HFLES will be guided on how to help students remain abstinent, but will also be equipped to give advice to those who may already be engaging in sexual activity.
An important aspect of the specialists’ job is to empower students to make responsible decisions by educating them about their sexuality.
Health Family Life and Education workshops are scheduled for June 22 in Mandeville, Manchester and June 25 in Kingston, and forms part of the National Family Planning Board’s co-ordinated response to the needs of adolescents.
The National Family Planning Board is a statutory agency of the Ministry of Health, and is empowered to prepare, carry out and promote the carrying out of family and family life education programmes in the island.
Its mission is to play a leading role in identifying, developing, promoting and co-ordinating national policies and programmes that recognise the rights of the individual to high quality family planning services appropriate to their reproductive health needs and status. This is in keeping with the Government’s objectives and the international environment.

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