In a country like South Africa which has the worst HIV/AIDS rate in the world, women’s health should take priority in all instances. With the introduction of a contraceptive injection, Depo Provera and a tiny thin rod called Implanon, that are taken by young women, pose serious long term health threats whom some say they were never warned of.
Depo Provera, commonly known as ‘Depo’ or ‘DP’, is a contraceptive injection that contains progesterone which is similar to the one that is released naturally by a woman’s ovaries. It is given every 12 weeks. Progesterone is said to be 97% effective; in other words 3 out of 100 women will fall pregnant even with the usage of the injection. Similarly, Implanon also prevents pregnancy by releasing progesterone. However, it is a tiny thin rod that is inserted under your upper arm skin. Once inserted, it can last for up to 3-4 years and the female “will not” fall pregnant.
Health clinics around the country offer these contraceptive methods. However nurses are not properly trained in order to assist young females when giving them these injections. Zusiphe Mdistshwa (21) a young woman I interviewed, reflected on the day she received the Depo Provera injection at the clinic.
“The nurses there were not very friendly, they judged me and so many others who wanted to get the injection. I was not told of any safety precautions or warned of any side effects. I started noticing my body’s physical changes such as weight gain which is common, but the injection started becoming very uncomfortable and so I decided to stop. Two months later I received my periods, which never stopped. I took numerous trips to the same clinic but the nurses there weren’t very helpful. All they do is give me pills to slow down the flow, not make it regular as it should be.” Said Mdisthwa.
Till this day, Mdistshwa is still menstruating continuously and is not receiving any proper treatment.
A current affairs talk show called ‘Checkpoint’ documented the health dangers of Implanon and Depo Provera. In the documentary, they highlighted the negligence of nurses and their lack of professionalism. They also made mention of a great number of women who reported such cases of severe side effects to the Department of Health, of which the department denied such cases being reported or any dangers these contraceptives cause for women’s health.
On the 15th of May, I went to Chesterville Clinic to question any of the nurses regarding this matter. Two nurses refused to speak and one of them made a controversial statement. This is evident of how nurses use the bible as a defence mechanism to excuse their behaviour of judging young girls who seek medical assistance from them.
The issue of nurses not being properly trained to give such services to women, puts the health of women at risk as these contraceptive methods are known for increasing the chances of contracting HIV and Cervical Cancer, if not properly inserted. The onus is upon the nurses to assist and educate young girls before injecting them.
African culture is notorious for elders not discussing sex with their adolescents, which makes them curios and end up doing things the wrong way, jeopardising their health as they are unaware of what they are doing. Many young women who are sexually active use these contraceptive methods recklessly, by stopping treatment and not waiting the acceptable period before they start another contraceptive method.
Most of the females I spoke to had no proper guidance and were not informed of how to treat their bodies whilst receiving treatment. The government should work on training nurses properly to ensure that the health and safety of young women is well taken care of.