Sexually Transmitted Infections also a key priority in Tonga's Public Health agendaJun 20, 2016
Nuku'alofa, Tonga: Work on raising awareness about a rising incidence of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and HIV is carried out mainly through Tonga Red Cross Society, Tonga Family Health Association (TFHA), Youth Congress and the Tonga Ladies Association, the last a forum of the trans-gender population.
Tonga Family Health Association is a leading NGO advocating for sexual and reproductive health. It is also the sub-recipient of the HIV/TB Global Fund grant managed by UNDP.
Vika Finau is the Clinic Coordinator at TFHA. She is assisted in her work by Ana, the nurse at the clinic.
On an average 15 to 20 patients are examined every day. The majority of the clinic’s patients are young people under the age of 25, with the vast majority being women. An average of three to five patients seen at the clinic in a given day are seen for complaints of STIs. The clinic provides a range of services to its patients, including testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted infections, Voluntary Confidential Counselling and Testing (VCCT) for HIV, and condom and contraception distribution. For its female patients, the clinic provides pap-smear screenings, breast examinations, pregnancy tests and ante-natal check-up for pregnant patients.
“Privacy and confidentiality is the reason why young people visit the clinic. In the government hospital, even in the waiting area, once you are there almost everyone knows why you are there. From the initial consultation, to the diagnostic laboratory and the final treatment, it is impossible to maintain anonymity about one’s infection”, Finau said. The clinic is ensuring treating both partners and, working towards, putting a stop to the further transmission of infection.
Talking STIs on Airwaves
Sections of the popular broadcast media are playing a stellar role in taking the lid off the silence on STIs and HIV in Tonga. Katalina Tohi, head of Broadcom Broadcasting, a private radio station that runs the popular 87.5 FM, is a feisty radio presenter. A Global Fund grant that enabled Katalina to start a one-hour interactive programme on social awareness, with a particular focus on building public conversations around the STIs. The programme, which started in2009 is still going strong and commands a captive listenership not just within Tonga but from Tongans as far afield as New Zealand.
The programme is on air five days a week in the morning from 10 to 11. It is rebroadcast in the afternoon and in the evening. Katalina uses the data on STIs and HIV coming out of Ministry of Health Surveys and reports. The key to her approach is being direct with her audience. “I keep checking on the demand for condoms in the night clubs. Sometimes I address the bar owners through my programme and ask, ‘How are you faring with your bowl of condoms?’ “My message is you can do sex but you need to protect yourself from infections.”
87.5FM is a stellar examples of innovative Tongan initiatives that that make use of creative communications to help all sections of society participate in the conversation.