Health systems should prioritize giving comprehensive access to sexual and reproductive health and rights services (SRHR) to adolescents if the world is to win the war against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescents, a local development practitioner said.
Friends For Child Development Director, Taurai Karambakuwa told a local online news organisation that the recent Constitutional Court ruling on age of consent might negatively impact on the fight against HIV infections among adolescents if not implemented with caution.
“The Constitutional ruling of setting the age of consent at 18 could hurt the fight against the spread of HIV among adolescents as they will not have free access to SRHR services,” he said.
He stressed the need for Zimbabwe health systems to put in place appropriate procedures that will deal with adolescents who need medical services.
“The health service sector would require to put in place standard operating procedures on how to deal with pre-18 boys and girls who require medical services,” said Karambakuwa.
Shamwari Yemwanasikana Advocacy and Influence Coordinator, Rudo Magwanyata said teenage pregnancies and HIV related deaths among adolescents remain a concern in the country.
“It is unfortunate that as we celebrate the new age of consent, the issue at hand in our country of teenage pregnancies and HIV being the 50 percent cause of death among young people remains a huge cause of concern.
“In as much as the age of consent has been set at a higher age, we have minors indulging in sexual activities.
“Our health system needs to accommodate adolescents by making sure that they have access to SRHR services,” said Magwanyata.
The ruling nullifies Section 22 of the Marriage Act which sets 16 years as the legal age of consent.
This comes after the Constitutional Court ruling on moving the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18 years of age.