Compiled by Indhrannie Pillay
The month of February is celebrated as National Reproductive Health Month. February incorporates World Cancer Day – 4 February, Condom week from 7 – 14 February, Sexual Health Awareness Week from 13 – 18 February, Pregnancy Education Fortnight from 13 – 26 February and Contraceptive Day on 28 February.
The Sexual Reproductive Health Month campaign was launched in 2006 by National Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The aim of this campaign is to create an awareness of and highlight the importance of reproductive health. This is in light of the fact that South African communities are experiencing an increase in unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, with an especially alarming rate in teenage pregnancy.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) reproductive health refers to a state of physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system at all stages of life. It is important for both men and women to be aware of sexual reproductive health and be informed on family planning and sexually transmitted diseases. The government urges couples to make use of the freely available and effective contraceptive methods at their local health facilities to protect themselves and each other.
Maternal deaths can be reduced by attending antenatal clinics early in the pregnancy; Cervical cancer can be prevented by screening at your nearest clinic; treating (sexually transmitted infections) STIs can prevent reproductive health problems later and men's involvement in sexual and reproductive health can make a difference.
On a positive note, at the 2008 Sexually Transmitted Disease and Condom Awareness Campaign in Kroonstad, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang announced that the use of condoms in the country has tripled over the past ten years and HIV infections in the age group 15 -25 has decreased by 3%.
Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexual relations. The sexual rights of every individual must be respected, protected and fulfilled.