More than 100 adolescent girls and young women attended the recent launch of the #SAYIT campaign. This initiative encourages young women to speak out on issues affecting their day-to-day lived realities to ensure that they influence and affect policies, programmes and support targeting them.
The launch, held in the Nelson Bay Metro on 7 November under the theme, ‘Acknowledge, Access, Stay Alive’ provided an opportunity for youth to engage with healthcare workers, peer trainers and educators, and programme staff. Group discussions were held on various topics such as gender-based violence, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV/Aids, STIs and PrEP. Access to screening and testing was also offered.
The #SAYIT campaign forms part of the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Programme, an age-appropriate combination prevention programme for AGYWs aged 15-24 years, who are both in and out of school. At the same time, it does not decline service provision to other populations, such as boys. Beyond Zero is the primary recipient of the Global Fund grant, and MIET AFRICA is the implementing partner, offering various support services such as mobile testing trucks, access to counselors and nurses.
The #SAYIT campaign was conceived to assist the programme with maximum reach of its target population. As a communication vehicle, the campaign will enable the AGYW programme to reach recipients countrywide, regardless of their geographic location. The design of the campaign allows for inclusive and non-discriminatory communication platforms which will enable the programme to extend to even the most hard-to-reach AGYWs.
The intention is to roll-out the #SAYIT campaign in all the sub-districts where the AGYW Programme is being implemented.
Speaking at the launch, MIET AFRICA AGYW Programme Manager, Zine Bam, provided an overview of services available in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, and emphasized the importance of programme integration with other initiatives to ensure sustainability. Bam added that MIET AFRICA implements the programme by making use of community structures as safe spaces and furnished with all the required equipment. She also mentioned the strong working relationships MIET AFRICA has with community leadership, government departments and other NGOs.
At the launch, which also saw invitees perform the Jerusalema dance and walk a 2.5km ‘healthy lifestyle fun walk’, MIET AFRICA NIMART nurse, Anele Mtyingizane, engaged with participants about HIV and PrEP initiation. The discussions explored the reasons young people are not willingly accessing HIV and PrEP services even though they are readily available in the community and at nearby health facilities. Key issues raised included staff attitudes at the health facilities; awkward operating times; and stigma and discrimination.
The majority of AGYWs who attended the build-up activities which were held before the launch event tested for HIV. At the launch 84% of the AGYW who attended tested for HIV. Those who tested positive were linked to care to the nearest health facility.