Reproductive health services “improvement is ongoing”

Reproductive health services “improvement is ongoing”

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu says South Africa will continue working to improve access to reproductive health care services.

Speaking at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which is currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya, Mthembu said the newly completed five-year plan for the country’s 6th democratic administration affirmed that South Africa will in the next five years continue to improve access to reproductive health services, including targeting adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to address pregnancies and risky behaviour.

The plan also includes upscaling existing campaigns and programmes on new HIV infections among youth, women and persons with disabilities and develop targeted programme on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, including gender mainstreaming, youth and disability issues in programmes, and addressing teenage pregnancies.

Mthembu said South Africa will strive to further reduce child and maternal mortality and to improve access to reproductive health services and anti-retroviral treatment.

Highlighting some of the country’s interventions in ensuring access to quality health services, Mthembu said the country is currently piloting the National Health Insurance (NHI) in order to enhance universal access to quality health care as well as to bridge the quality gaps that exist in the private and public sectors.

“South Africa has also embraced the importance of extending free dignity packs to poor women and girls with a view to improve women’s reproductive health and contribute to the retention of girl children in schools who often miss school during their cycle.

“We are confident that these interventions will ensure that we continue to place people at the centre of our developmental agenda,” Mthembu said.

He said South Africa continues to commit itself to tackling the challenges identified for the 2019 Nairobi Summit on #ICPD25.

The ICPD Programme of Action commitments are centred around achieving zero unmet needs for family planning information and services; zero preventable maternal deaths; zero sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices against women and girls referred to as Ukuthwalwa; and providing detail for implementing second phase of the democratic transition.

Reproductive health care programmes

South Africa has also expanded reproductive health care through various programmes such as the Integrated School Health Programme which focuses on addressing both the immediate health problems of learners, including barriers to teaching and learning as well as implementing interventions that can promote their health and well-being during childhood and beyond.

The National Department of Health has introduced programmes such as B-Wise – a young person’s interactive cell phone health platform to empower adolescents and youth to make the right choices based on accurate information; and She Conquers Campaign – A youth-led campaign which will run for 3-years collaborating with government, NGOs, business, and civil society to address the major issues that adolescent girls and young women face in South Africa today.

South Africa has over the last 25 years embarked on a number of legislative and policy interventions which focus on the sexual health and wellbeing of young people, as well as providing for women to choose a contraceptive method that they prefer. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act which was passed in 1996 has ensured deaths from unsafe abortion has declined by more than 90%. Access to Primary Health Care Services measured in terms of visits per annum, increased from some 67 million in 1998 to over 128 million in March 2018. Furthermore, the total numbers of new HIV infections declined from 270 000 in 2016 to 231 000 in 2018.

South Africa is currently also in the process of decriminalising sex work to ensure that the sex work industry is regulated and that women are protected.