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My Journey, My Choice

Young people using computers and getting training at a Safe Space

A My Journey Safe Space run by Grassroots Edge in Kimberley.

We are in an exciting time for HIV prevention with an array of new and accessible prevention options becoming available including oral PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), the long-acting PrEP injection and the vaginal ring recently approved for women over 18 in South Africa. These new tools – along with older ones like condoms, testing and ARV treatment as prevention – have the potential to speed up our march towards the end of AIDS. But as with many medical interventions, uptake can be slow and access uneven.

Young people do not view their lives through the lens of HIV risk and so do not prioritise PrEP. Persistent stigma, judgemental attitudes and other practical barriers are hampering efforts to reach young people with these new tools. NACOSA’s prevention campaign My Journey, My Choice aims to encourage young people to see prevention as self-care, enabling them to take control of their health and wellbeing along their life journey.

Serving young people aged between 15 and 24, My Journey’s mission is to support young people on their journey to health and wellbeing.

Implemented by NACOSA with funding from the Global Fund and in close partnership with community organisations Childline Gauteng, MIET Africa, Grassroots Edge, Pathways to Change, Amandla Development and Hope Africa, the programme offers advice, HIV tests, PrEP, contraceptives and other protection  that fits each young person’s health needs and lifestyle in youth-friendly community Safe Spaces.

“Sexual health can be a worry for many and going to a clinic, waiting in a queue, filling forms is often off-putting and even frightening. Safe Spaces offer a judgment-free zone where young people can practice self-care and take control of their health like HIV prevention and family planning. Our expanding offering of PrEP options make it even easier to get both your choice and your peace of mind,” says NACOSA’s Colleen Wagner, My Journey Programme Manager.

The newest product – the monthly vaginal PrEP Ring – is the latest exciting addition to the protection basket available to women over 18 years old. The PrEP Ring is a discreet and effective way to protect yourself against HIV. Colleen explains:

“Once the women have inserted the ring themselves, there is a sense of ownership – that is the beauty of making a choice yourself. You can also choose to cycle on and off or switch prevention methods. Thousands of South African women and many scientists contributed to realising the promise of the PrEP Ring as the first women-specific HIV protection method. Currently you only need to change your PrEP Ring once a month – the protection is always with you.” 

About Safe Spaces 

Safe Spaces are versatile centres created for young people because this group faces overlapping social, physical, mental and emotional issues in addition to HIV and sexual health. But they are also keen to live a life that is uninterrupted by HIV or early, unwanted pregnancy. Young people can find a Safe Space near them on the My Journey website.

Community educator and My Journey Influencer, Gosiame Thobane from Mabopane explains:

“The safe space to me means a place of safety where I am able to share confidential information about m yself to a person I trust and also a place to rely on in a case of a need. The safe space supports you by offering learnership programmes that benefit the youth, help out with HIV testing, allows the youth easy access to PrEP and help you get toiletries and sanitary pads without a hassle.”

These are some of the benefits at a community Safe Space:

  • Check your HIV status.
  • HIV prevention options like oral PrEP and the PrEP Ring which are safe ways to put you in charge of your wellbeing and future.
  • Pregnancy tests and screening for sexually transmitted infections and TB.
  • Free male and female condoms as well as routine and emergency contraception.
  • Help and information about gender-based violence.
  • Someone to talk to if you are having other issues – even admin like referrals for childcare grants and an ID card.

Another My Journey Influencer, Jayden Gabriels from Mitchells Plain says:

“A safe space means to me a place that is safe, there is no judgment, no negativity around. A place you can express your emotions. A place I come to feel safe and get assistance for the problem I have. A place that is youth friendly. A place that helps and gives services to adolescents and young people in our communities.”

Young woman with hands supporting the message of PrEP, condoms and rights

My Journey Influencers from Amandla Development in Mitchells Plain promote prevention options to other young people