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Creating safe spaces for male students to increase knowledge on Sexual Reproductive health in Zambia

Nurses informing students, Chongwe District, Zambia

The O3 plus project is reducing the knowledge gap in Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) for young men through health talk engagements aimed at improving their health-seeking behaviour for SRH related concerns.

Young men in Zambia are reported to have their first sexual encounter at the age 18 according to the Zambia demographic health survey 2021. Studies indicate that young men in the age group 18-25 years are less likely to answer accurately sexual and reproductive health related questions compared to women in the same age group (Melina Bersamin, 2020). The lack of information in sexual and reproductive health related issues negatively affects young men’s health-seeking behaviour coupled with other reasons such as poor access and quality of SRH health services.

On 7th of March 2023, young men at Chalimbana University received a health talk from health care personnel during a hostel town hall meeting. This awareness meeting was the first of a series due to take place monthly for the young men at the institution.

The UNESCO Our Rights, Our Lives and Our Future Plus project (O3 plus) trained health care personnel to improve the quality of youth friendly services delivery at health facilities. The training promoted confidentiality, trust and confidence in the health personnel with the aim of improving health seeking behaviour by young people.

In the picture, Funny a nurse at Chalimbana rural health clinic is promoting HIV Testing and Counselling, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and condom use.

During this awareness, one of the students commented, “I had no idea such medication (PrEP) existed, I would like to know if the drug has any side effects”. Another student commented “I am so glad we have some nurses that are friendly, students’ need direct referrals to nurses like you”.

Following the SRH awareness, Chalimbana Clinic has recorded a higher number of male students requesting for PrEP and PEP compared to the previous years. The students further requested for more information on specific health issues and mentorship from men of “good standing”.

From the interactions during the SRH awareness, evidently young men need trusted and non-judgmental spaces to access SRH information. Creating access to SRH information may result in increased health-seeking behaviour among young people for SRH related concerns.

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