Project - Healthy Young People

Unprotected sex continues to be the main driver of HIV infection among adolescents and young people in Malawi. While the national HIV prevalence rate is on the decline, that of young people aged between 10-24 is increasing. The two-year Healthy Young People project focusses on integration of comprehensive sexuality education and youth friendly health services.

“I can’t talk openly with my parents about sexuality. They find it inappropriate and refer me to an elderly in the community instead. I would be so embarrassed! My church promotes abstinence only. I don’t know whom to talk to so I discuss sex with my friends only. How can we as young people live healthy lives if no one takes us seriously?” – Adolescent girl in Malawi

Disabling environment

A baseline study conducted as part of the project shows that due to low knowledge and low uptake of youth friendly services, young people share dangerous myths and misconceptions. This results in an early sex debut, some as early as at an age of 10 years. Open discussion between adults and youth is largely considered taboo.

Why is linkage between education and healthcare the answer?

Comprehensive sexuality education acknowledges that many teenagers will become sexually active. It promotes openness and acceptance of young people’s sexuality and rights and includes discussions about STIs and HIV. The schools are empowered to provide age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education while the health centres provide youth friendly health services.

Objectives of the project

The Healthy Young People project aims at contributing to a healthy life for young people in Central and Northern Malawi with an ultimate goal of reduced new HIV and STI infection and teenage pregnancies. The project pays special attention to stigma due to the fact that people do not accept that young people are sexually active.

Results

The project (2014-2015) is being piloted in two districts of Lilongwe (central region) and Mzimba (northern region), targeting 6 primary schools and 2 hospitals. 524 young people and 446 teachers are trained to give sexual education to young people and refer them, 27 healthcare workers are trained to provide youth-friendly services. The objective is to improve access to care for some 2,500 young people (10-18 years). 

Partners

Health Young People is implemented by ICCO Malawi, in partnership with Aidsfonds (previously STOP AIDS NOW!), Education Expertise Development Foundation, Cordaid Edukans/Educaids and Nkhoma Mission hospital and Embangweni Mission hospital.