YOUNG people’s access to sexual and reproductive health information is critical to winning the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
This was said by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Lesotho, Nuzhat Ehsan, during Tuesday’ launch of the adolescent sexual and reproductive health site Tune Me (ls.tuneme.org) on Tuesday at the Maseru Mall-based Vodacom Innovation Centre.
UNFPA collaborated with the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Sport as well as Vodacom Lesotho in setting up the interactive website.
Tune Me has already been launched in seven other southern African countries that include Botswana, Malawi, Namibia Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Ms Ehsan said the website addresses a wide array of topics related to sexual and reproductive health to equip young people with information.
The site, she said, also tackles sexual and reproductive health issues that are regarded as taboo in the communities and not discussed openly. Some of the issues include relationship advice and information about HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, menstruation and contraceptive methods.
“The site aims to equip young people with information and the motivation they need to make better choices and empowers them to improve their sexual and reproductive health,” she said.
Given that young people made up to 23 percent of Lesotho’s population, Ms Ehsan said, it was critical for them to be empowered with information to make smart and informed decisions.
“UNFPA advocates for the rights of young people, including the right to relevant and accurate information about sexual and reproductive health.”
Chipping in, UNFPA National Program Analyst in Adolescents and Youth, Maseretse Ratia, said the website was accessible on both computers and mobile phones.
“Through social features and content designed to engage users rather than lecture, Tune Me aims to equip young people with the information and motivation they need to make better and informed choices,” she said.
Ms Ratia indicated that the long-term goal was to enable young people to run the platform and use it as an advocacy tool in various campaigns.
“Tune Me puts the power in young people’s hands to make choices about their bodies, rights, love life and sexual health.”
She said the site had sections such as hot topics, true stories, your body, sex and relationships.
For his part, Vodacom Lesotho Head of Corporate Affairs, Tšepo Ntaopane, said the initiative was borne out of the need to increase the dissemination of sexual and reproductive health information.
“It is evident that, as a nation, we are probably doing something wrong in terms of the dissemination of HIV-related information because Lesotho still has a high prevalence rate,” he said.
Lesotho’s HIV prevalence rate is 25 percent — the second highest in the world. Swaziland marginally leads with 26 percent.