Youth-Friendly Health Services for Better Health Outcomes
A lack of youth-friendly services contributes enormously to teenage pregnancies and HIV/aids prevalence in Uganda. “Adolescents and young people need to be reached with Adolescent-Friendly Health Services (ADFHS) to mitigate the multiple health challenges and behavioral risks that they are faced with,” said Ruth Awori, program coordinator at Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV-AIDS (UNYPA).
While launching the event, Nicholas Nuwagaba, the UNYPA executive director, talked about the feedback of service, which the assessment sought to achieve as an important tool in service delivery. “It is one thing to offer a service, but it is another thing to be assessed by the recipients of the service,” he said adding that the latter is rare in Uganda’s case.
As the discussions gained momentum, the issue of whether youth prefer private corners to an integral approach took centre stage. “What exactly is appropriate for our youth, is it youth corners, integrated services or specific days for youngsters to access a service?” questioned Gracious Atwine, country coordinator PITCH Uganda. Jinja’s District Health Officer, Dr. Dyogo Natuma, believes that there should be no specific facilities for young people. However, feedback from the assessment revealed that they shy away from mixing up with the adults while seeking for services, more specifically those related to reproductive health. “I believe strongly that we don’t need specific days for young people to access a service, everyday should be a day to access a service for everyone. Even the youth corners are not in line with the Ministry of Health”, Dr. Dyogo said. Contrary to this view, Mr. Nuwagaba claims that adolescents and young people need to be served with Adolescents-Friendly Health Services that guarantee their privacy and confidentiality as it was the feedback coming from the assessment.
Other issues of concern from the assessment include among other things, no suppression among HIV/AIDS positive living infants, inability of health workers to forecast due to the increased number of people enrolled on Anti-Retroviral Treatment following the test and treat policy, and a lack of budgets for all elevated facilities to cater for the increased roles and responsibilities. An example of this latter issue is Iganga hospital and its district referral hospitals, as the human resource offering HIV/AIDS services is very low compared to the client load and stock out of ATV/r pillets, septrin, nevirapine junior and condoms in most facilities.
It was revealed that in some areas like Mayuge district, there has been a deficit of condoms for the past 6 months whereas in Jinja district, there was an oversupply which the assessment attributed to the presence of many development partners. Therefore, the Jinja DHO said that there is need to consider redistribution of SRHR items across districts and regions. “Why would a district like Mayuge run short of condoms whereas close by we have an over stock of it? It’s just a matter of communicating and we see how to solve the issue”, said Dr. Dyiogo.
Mr. Charles Owekmendo, current head of SRHR Alliance, encouraged all district’s health care service providers to ensure that there is a youth-friendly health service delivery in which youngsters are not being judged or despised when using the services. “True, it is costly to have youth-friendly services, but it is possible to have user-friendly services for youth regardless of the approaches we use”, Charles said.