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High adolescent HIV rates need urgent action say Parliamentarians in Pretoria meeting

High adolescent HIV rates need urgent action say Parliamentarians in Pretoria meeting

Parliamentarians from across the Southern African have been gathering in Pretoria this week for the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) regional annual conference on sexual and reproductive health. 

15 May 2015 - Parliamentarians and policy makers from Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique, have joined representatives from the WHO, UN and SIDA (the Swedish development agency) for the 5 day meeting. Two special guests from the United Kingdom, a member of the House of Lords Baroness Elizabeth Barker, and the Northern Irish Prisoner Ombudsman, Tom McGonigle, are also in attendance.

Bongai Mundeta, Director of VSO RHAISA said today: “This is a very important conference on an urgent issue, in particular concerns we have around young girls who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances leading to early marriages and teenage pregnancies.  A twelve year old girl is a child, she cannot be a wife, she must be in school. We are urging the Parliamentarians, policy makers and civil society to eliminate child marriages.”

It is estimated that 2.6 million young people aged 15-24 years old were living with HIV in 2012. The VSO conference has been looking at the challenges faced by volunteers and partner organisations tackling this including; high birth rates, low contraceptive use and a high prevalence of HIV amongst adolescents.

Delegates are discussing how to address this through interventions on HIV prevention, changes to and access to SRH curricula, the establishment of health centres which provide youth focused services, elimination of child marriages and gender based violence.

Baroness Elizabeth Barker of the House of Lords in the UK jointly opened the conference earlier this week with the former Minister of Health for Zimbabwe, Hon Dr Henry Madzorera. In her address she urged the Parliamentarians to focus on creating policies which protect and support young people saying:

 “I am honoured to be here in South Africa to be able to share my experiences with Parliamentary colleagues from Southern Africa as well as to help support VSO RHAISA in their important work of addressing adolescent sexual and reproductive health in this region.”

For 15 years VSO’s regional office based in Pretoria, RHAISA, has been working on HIV/Aids issues in seven African countries through innovative programmes in health and education, particularly in sexual and reproductive health of the most marginal and least served communities such as vulnerable young people.

For further information or to book an interview please contact RHAISA on Telephone: +27 (0)12 342 7205/5741/3620 or Cell: +27 (0) 83 2594876 or email 

More information on the work of VSO RHAISA

Editor's notes

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all.