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Quality Health Care in a Beautiful Setting: Part Two
The tiny baby was hugely distressed: Being tested for HIV just a few weeks after her birth was not her idea of a good time. Crying her lungs out, she made her discomfort loud and clear.
But don’t be fooled: In Suriname, where two of the leading causes of death are AIDS and reproductive cancers, Holband’s role in overseeing the country’s prevention programs for cervical cancer and mother-to-child transmission of HIV is one of the toughest jobs around. Yet she does not shy away from the challenge. Her eyes light up when she tells me about of the countless babies who were able to remain HIV negative thanks to the treatment their mothers received in S’Lands hospital. Her face suddenly turns somber when she refers to the few that “she lost.”
Most are done safely by professionals who empathize with women’s needs and respect their rights, even if the law does not allow it. However, the number of deaths from unsafe abortion remains high, despite of the fact that contraceptives are relatively accessible. Young women, in particular, tend to have sex without protection. When I ask why, Holband becomes emphatic: because we don’t talk about sex!
The majority do not want to get pregnant, and despite the fact that most know how to avoid a pregnancy, very few use a condom or a pill. Contraceptives are not distributed in schools or in other places where adolescents normally go, and they are expensive, particularly for poor adolescents.
The consequences of this silence can be terrible for adolescents and devastating for communities. It is time to recognize the sexual rights of youth everywhere!