Democratic Republic of Congo
In Kinshasa,three out of five pregnancies are unwanted and across the country, one in four girls becomes pregnant for the first time before the age of 19. Access to contraception is illegal for minors and abortion is permitted only for medical purposes. Even in such cases access to abortion is not effective. About one in every 100 births causes the death of the mother. Despite this, adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues are politically and socio-culturally sensitive.
« About one in every 100 births causes the death of the mother. »
In DRC, HIV affects 1.2% of the 15-49 age group. Prevalence is three times higher amongst women (1.6%) than amongst men of the same age (0.6%). This is due to a lack of knowledge about HIV, especially amongst young people, as well as the taboo in Congolese society surrounding the sexuality of teenagers outside marriage. As a result, young people are often judged, stigmatised, and even rejected when visiting health centres for problems related to their sexual and reproductive health. Thus, condom use is rare and most of the time they are unaware of their HIV status.
In two health zones in the megalopolis, Doctors of the World is working with teenagers to inform and raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues in a broad sense, and on the themes of unwanted pregnancy in particular, but also STIs including HIV, and gender-based violence. In this way, in collaboration with a national association, Doctors of the World is trying to improve access to family planning for young girls, to inform them about STIs, to offer care to those who have undergone an abortion or to take care of those who have suffered sexual violence.
Particular emphasis is placed on the links between community mobilisation frameworks and health centres to facilitate effective access to these services, enabling them to choose to have a child when and if they wish, and to reduce the risk of STI and HIV infection. Doctors of the World also trains health personnel, in an approach that is adapted to teenagers. Lastly, the association supports civil society to lobby authorities to legalise contraception for minors and abortion.
In North Kivu and Kinshasa, on the strength of its expertise in sexual and reproductive health for young people, Doctors of the World works with local, civil and institutional partners to strengthen the quality of prevention, screening and treatment services, and care for people living with HIV. The project targets young people and teenagers, regardless of their status, origin or sexual practices. In addition, the project is part of the DRC national HIV and AIDS strategy, which it supports through knowledge generation and the promotion of an environment conducive to the fighting the disease.
Our programme is structured around 4 major themes:
– Improving knowledge about the epidemic
– Capacity building for professionals and screening
– The creation of links between health facilities and young people
– Advocacy to create a social and legal framework for the fight against HIV and AIDS