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What choice means to young women

By Cleopatra Makura

Have you ever had one of those moments in
life, maybe you are stuck in a conference room trying to listen, but instead you
end up gossiping with yourself? Suddenly you have a moment of fear in thinking
back on some small decision you regret having made in your life? That moment of
humiliation, your own self will not let you hear the end of it. We all make
choices and do things we wish we hadn’t. But the one good thing, even when you
regret, is if you had many options and what you did was a choice you

It’s Monday 22nd October 2018
and I am in Madrid, Spain attending the HIV Research for Prevention conference.
I am participating in a panel discussion, titled ‘Whose desire, Whose choice?’.
It was a lively  and wellmoderated discussion, with speakers from funding agencies,
research networks and product developers. Here I am listening to all the
technical jargon. They are all talking about clinical trials and phases of
research. However, many panelists were also discussing disappointment about
PrEP(Pre Exposure prophylaxis) uptake results, as many young women were reported not to have embraced PrEP.

I am thinking in my mind, did they even ask
us young women what we wanted before they developed the product? I was saying:

‘Hey product developer, you are not a young
woman. Young women want choice. The feeling we have when we know we can protect
ourselves gives us power and confidence. We want to pick an HIV prevention tool
from a variety without being judged. We young women love experiencing new
things, we want fun and exciting things. We want systemic and non-systemic
options. Imagine carrying a bottle of pills around and everyone waiting for an
explanation. We have different opinions on what works and what does not work
for us.

If you come up with new products, make sure
they smell nice, make them attractive and don’t forget the potentially
expensive cost of these products. Young women are a diverse group, one product
cannot satisfy and be user friendly to all of them. We want the pill, the ring,
implants, injection and those new products we don’t know about.

As you roll out the HIV prevention products
take into consideration the issue of youth-friendly services. It is not a
matter of just trying to be smiling when I visit the clinic. Sometimes the
sentiment “young at heart” should be dismissed. How can I talk about my sex
life to an old nurse, looking at me from the top of their spectacles trying to fake
a smile? The golden question is where is the 25 year old nurse? Youth-friendly
services provided by the youthful service providers are better for us.’

#FortheYouthWiththeYouthBytheYouth  #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs