EGPAF-Mozambique Offers Health Services to Adolescents At School Games

School Games XIII in Mozambique

Nelma Julieta Massunda Vaz, EGPAF-Mozambique

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in Mozambique, in coordination with the Provincial Health Directorate of Gaza, from the Ministry of Health in Mozambique, participated in School Games XIII, held last month from July 14 – 23 in Macia and Xai-Xai (Gaza Province).

The games (Festival Nacional dos Jogos Desportivos Escolares, meaning “National Festival of Sports School Games”) are like the Olympics for secondary school students, an annual national competition comprised of students representing each province in the country. This year they were held in Gaza Province. A total of 1,386 students participated in soccer, handball, volleyball, basketball, chess, gymnastics, and traditional games.

EGPAF staff attended the event to offer HIV testing counseling and family planning, including sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents.

EGPAF-Mozambique, as the main clinical partner, took part in the event through the DREAMS initiative implemented by EGPAF in Gaza Province since 2015 through the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), with funding from the Centers from Disease Control (CDC). DREAMS is “an ambitious partnership to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries. The goal of DREAMS is to help girls develop into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.

Girls and young women account for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 10 DREAMS countries (Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) account for more than half of all the new HIV infections that occurred among adolescent girls and young women globally in 2015.”

The objective of the program is to reduce the rates of HIV infection among girls and young women between 10-24 years old, and increase the availability and access to quality health services for young people.

EGPAF-Mozambique allocated two mobile clinics and four tents that were set up in train stations, sport stadiums and the Xai-Xai Secondary School where the games were held so that students and other interested parties could benefit from the health services offered.

The main services offered by EGPAF’s mobile clinics and tents were: HIV counseling and testing, family planning (normal and long-term) and awareness raising regarding domestic violence, drug use, premature pregnancies, and premature marriages.

Premature marriages disproportionately affects young women in Mozambique – young women (often married to older men) are more vulnerable to HIV-infection due to intimate-partner violence, lack of decision-making power in the household, lack of knowledge/negotiatting power to practice safe sex. Often, girls are taken out of school after getting married and are therefore far less likely to receive education on HIV-prevention.

EGPAF also advised students on abstinence as an option for HIV prevention, responsible alcohol consumption, and the prevalence of gender-based violence.

Alcohol consumption decreases one's inhibitions and increases likelihood of inability to negotiate safe sex.

 “Our presence [at the school games] is very useful for adolescents because often they need clarification and guidance on issues related to HIV & AIDS, reproductive and sexual health, how to manage the first sexual relationship/encounter, how to choose the best prevention methods. In Mozambique we say “the young people are our future” -- that’s why the current government cares about adolescent health, and EGPAF-Mozambique is helping them to reduce HIV-infection and premature marriages and pregnancies,” says Ana Cristina Monteiro, Coordinator of DREAMS at EGPAF-Mozambique

A school games participant, named Rosina, 16 years, asked one activist if it is necessary to use condoms in the first sexual encounter. According to her friends, if condoms are used during the first encounter, the girl will experience severe pain. This kind of question is frequent among adolescents who lack sexual education.

The activists who guided the lectures for the youth during the games were trained by EGPAF. They provided an opportunity for debate, clarification of doubts and exchange of experiences among the adolescents.

During the games, EGPAF counseled 2,873 people (1,385 males and 1,488 females) – 2,647 were adolescents aged 10-24 years. 361 adolescent partners received 419 male condoms and were sensitized about the prevention of gender-based violence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).