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Facilities get youth-friendly boost

NACOSA’s Adolescents and Young People programme recently supported the upgrading of 18 primary health facilities to make them more adolescent and youth-friendly.

Young people in South Africa are at risk of a number of sexual and reproductive health problems including HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and early, unplanned pregnancies. At the same time, young people are far less likely to access prevention, care and treatment services. Adolescents and young people are often put off visiting health facilities because of things like the judgemental attitudes of health care workers, long waiting times, operation hours not suitable to their needs and physical spaces in facilities that are not welcoming to young people. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these issues, further impacting on young people’s access to health services.

Waiting area before upgrade (left) and after with pamphlet stand.

Services can be adapted to make them easier to access and more appealing for young people. Adolescent and youth-friendly services can make an enormous difference in communities by helping to prevent HIV and unwanted pregnancies and keeping young people healthy. The Adolescent and Youth Friendly Service (AYFS) approach has been promoted in South Africa by the National Department of Health and partners, as a way to standardise the quality of adolescent health services in the country. The approach follows the World Health Organisation’s Global Standards for Quality Health-Care Services for Adolescents which includes supporting young people’s health literacy, convenient operating ours and a welcoming and clean environment that helps to maintain privacy and confidentiality. AYFS should provide quality services to all adolescents and young people regardless of their ability to pay, age, sex, marital status, education level, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other characteristics.

Consulting room before (left) and after, upgraded

Working with the Department of Health and implementing organisations THC and Lifeline Rustenburg, NACOSA’s Adolescents and Young People Programme, funded by the Global Fund, upgraded 18 adolescent and youth friendly service centres in Klipfontein and Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape and in Rustenburg in the North West.

Provincial health departments identified clinic facilities that needed upgrading. Facilities were assessed using the Youth Zone criteria, Youth Services as part of the Ideal Clinic initiative and the numbers of young people accessing the facilities. After detailed site visits where clinical and other staff provided input, plans were made to upgrade them to youth-friendly facilities and give them their own identity. Facilities were painted and given window blinds, airconditioners, new chairs and couches, pamphlet stands and noticeboards, as well as directional arrows to guide young people into the spaces. Young people were engaged to paint colourful murals in some of the spaces, working with a graffiti artist.

The project has been warmly welcomed by departments of health and young people.

Health facility wall before bare and dirty and after upgrade with a colourful mural.

Facility wall before (left) and after upgrade with a colourful mural.