Marking one year of the ESA CommitmentShare
Progress in strengthening comprehensive sexuality education and health services for young people
This December marks the first year of implementation following the groundbreaking Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) commitment. Endorsed by Ministers of Health and Education from 20 countries, the commitment supports increased access to good quality comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for young people across Eastern and Southern Africa.
Currently, only 26% of adolescent girls and 36% of boys in sub-saharan African possess comprehensive understanding about HIV and ways to prevent the virus. In addition, there are substantial barriers to young people accessing proper sexual health services such as HIV testing and contraceptives.
The first year of the ESA Commitment has already seen significant progress. Countries have made huge strides to develop and enforce an enabling environment in order to build strong foundations in realising the commitment targets. This includes:
1. A coordinated response to implementation by working with national partners across multiple sectors.
2. Human and financial resources that are mobilized for better capacity and implementation.
3. Reviewing, revising and developing national policies, strategies and legal frameworks that address young people’s needs.
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)
14 out of the 20 countries have included CSE into schools with many others in process. A situational analysis was also conducted to review status of sexuality education in teacher training institutions, which will help to inform a strategy across the region.
Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services
Huge strides have also been made to expand young people’s access to HIV testing and counseling (HTC). This progress is in large part due to the fact that many countries have been investing in the expansion of HTC services. 80 per cent of countries report having provided youth friendly services. However, these services do not meet World Health Organisation Youth Friendly Service Standards. A regional assessment of quality coverage is being conducted and will help to inform the development of harmonized standards and guidelines for all countries. Moreover, it will contribute to developing a state of the art, regional youth friendly teaching manual to support implementation of the standards.
Clear strategies are being advocated for that can facilitate access, equality, equity and strengthening of national responses towards HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health rights. These include:
- An increased use of skilled health care providers and education staff
- Reduction of teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortions;
- A reduction of child and adolescent marriages before the age of 19;
- Promotion of accountability mechanisms and establishing sustainable partnerships with all stakeholders; and
- Ensuring that there are evidenced based approaches to clearly measure progress towards the achievement of the ESA targets for 2015 and 2020.