The Ministry of Health has announced its official stand on the ongoing debate on whether or not secondary schools should be availed with condoms to help fight HIV/Aids and other infectious diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies among students.
In a communiqué published yesterday, the Minister of Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, stated that the government was in favour of sexual reproductive health education and not condoms in schools.
“The Ministry of Health would like to make it clear that our position as a government is to encourage sexual reproductive health education in our secondary schools, aimed at opening the minds of our youth to the dangers associated with early sexual encounters as opposed to distribution of condoms,” reads her statement in part.
“The young generation still in secondary school should be mindful of the dangers associated with early sexual encounters and strive to adhere to the preventive measures recommended within reproductive health education curriculum, which will provide life skills and empower them to say no to sex until the right time”.
This is the first time the government has come out to state its official position on the matter, although some individual officials, including the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Medical Council (RBC), Dr Anita Asiimwe had said that accessing condoms could help reduce the risk of HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies in schools, pointing to statistics which show that as many as 614 school girls got pregnant last year alone – a proof that some students engage in unsafe sex.
One constituency that is likely to welcome the government’s official position is the clergy, especially the Catholic Church, who view the proposal as a call to promiscuity among students.
But those behind the campaign have vowed to carry on with their advocacy, insisting that making condoms readily available to students would help address the challenges associated with HIV/Aids and school dropout rates.
“We shall continue to explain to the various stakeholders why we are advocating for condom accessibility in secondary schools. We don’t have the mandate and capacity to distribute them, but rather advocating for easy accessibility,” Cassien Havugimana, the Programs Manager at Health Development Initiative (HDI), told The New Times yesterday.
In its statement, the Ministry of Health said it was important that “specific sexual reproductive health education for different age groups be enhanced both in schools and homes to equip the young generation with the required information and skills to address sexual challenges in a responsible manner.”
The HIV prevalent rate in the country is slightly above 3 percent.