Velisha Thompson of the City of Johannesburg writes:
Teenage pregnancies are cases when girls between the ages of 13 and 19 fall pregnant and eventually give birth at that tender age.
There are many instances where children under the age of 13 also fall pregnant. Children are not physically, emotionally and psychologically ready to have babies at that tender age.
Social consequences of teenage pregnancy are school drop-out or interrupted education; vulnerability to or participation in the criminal activity; abortion; being abandoned by their peers, child neglect; school adjustment difficulties for their children; lack of social security and poverty.
The number of ‘blessers’ has also increased leading to young girls being easily persuaded by older men. Research has shown that teen pregnancies and HIV prevalence among young people living in urban informal areas such as Alex is double that of other teenagers living in other areas.
This also brings us to the scary fact that girls and boys are engaging in intercourse at such an early age. With this come many sexually transmitted illnesses (STI’s), infertility at a later stage, cervical cancer and of course HIV. There has also been an alarming increase in the number of teenagers being infected with HIV.
Adolescents, like many other age groups in South Africa, are greatly impacted by the HIV/Aids pandemic due to early sexual activities. It is therefore important that safe sexual behaviour is encouraged and practised, and that patterns of high-risk sexual activity, of which teenage pregnancy and HIV/Aids are major consequences.
Sexual exposure poses the greatest risk of being infected. It is important that our children are also made aware of the risks especially as now children are becoming sexually active from a younger age. Children should be educated about HIV which is duly done at schools but should be reinforced by parents and caregivers.
Teenagers should be kept in school until Grade 12, as we find that higher levels of education protect against HIV. The more knowledge our teenagers have, the better their chances of not falling pregnant and contacting STIs/HIV. Young girls can say ‘NO’ and should not be victimised if they do. Let us support our girls.