Vanuatu is a Christian nation where it’s widely believed that sex before marriage is a sin. Contraception and condoms are taboo and although sexual health is promoted in schools and through organizations such as Wan Smol Bag, it is still considered inappropriate to openly discuss sexual health.
Many of the chiefs and church ministers believe that abstinence is the best solution to prevent pregnancies but the reality is that young people are engaging in sexual relations and girls as young as 15 are falling pregnant. In fact Vila Central Hospital have reported that 14% of pregnancies are teenagers and that Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are widespread, particularly Chlamydia.
In a 2008 report conducted by the Ministry of Health and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), it revealed that only 38% of women had planned their pregnancy. Of those who did not plan their pregnancy, 50% did not use any contraceptives in the three months prior to becoming pregnant. If they did use contraceptives, some women were using traditional leaf medicine.
‘Taem mi silip wetem wan boy, mi go karem wan leaf medicine lo Auntie blong mi,’ says Harriet, a young girl from Tanna. The leaf medicine comes in a plastic water bottle and a small portion is taken after she has sex. She admits that it is unreliable and worries that it will fail as it has before. She already has two babies and doesn’t want any more children. However she says that she feels shy to go to a reproductive health clinic. It doesn’t help that she is unsure where to go and is unable to afford basic healthcare.
Kam Pusem Head (KPH) Clinic
If you are based in Port Vila, the Kam Pusem Head (KPH) Clinic is a relaxed and informal sexual health clinic based in Tagabe at Wan Smol Bag. It offers a confidential service providing STI treatments, counselling, family planning (jadelle implant, condoms, pill, etc) and HIV/tests. All you have to do is turn up and register yourself. Donations are welcome but otherwise it is free to receive contraception and sexual health care.
The emergency contraceptive pill is also available and can prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. It is sometimes called ‘the morning after pill’ and is 99.9% effective if taken within 24 hours of sexual intercourse.
Sapos yu silip wetem wan boy las naet be yutufala no yusum condom, yu go luk KPH Clinic lo Tagabe. Olgeta hemi save giv wan emergency contraceptive tablet lo yu, afta bae yu no save kasam bel. Yu mus kai kai tablet no bitim wan day afta yu gat sex. Sapos no, hemi no effective tumas.
KPH clinic also has a group of peer educators who run workshops and visit communities and schools to provide information on sexual health. They also distribute free condoms. Condoms are available at the reception area at KPH Clinic for you to take. Open from Monday to Friday, between 8am-12pm, then 1:30pm-4:30pm, please call 25895 for more information or visit Wan Smol Bag’s website.