Ntsiki and Taylor stroll, arms linked, on their way home from school. Ntsiki peers at Taylor under lowered eyes, but looks away before she notices. As they pass the public library, she tugs Taylor to a standstill. “Let’s go in here, Tay.”
“The library? For what?” Taylor places her hands on her hips. “That’s what the internet is for, girl – libraries are so twentieth century.”
“I’m … err …” Ntsiki wrings her hands. “I’m … I’m … going for family planning.”
Taylor suppresses a grin, thinking, shame, she looks so nervous. “The only safe sex is abstinence, girlfriend, not reading about it.”
Ntsiki slaps Taylor’s arm. “Thula! I might be green about sex, but I’m not a cabbage, you know.”
Taylor chuckles at Ntsiki’s outburst and grabs her hand to stop her. “Does this mean you and Themba have–”
“Nooo! Not yet, anyway. But if it happens, I don’t want to end up a baby mama at 18.” Ntsiki shudders. “Yoh, in matric. Imagine!”
Taylor cocks her head and looks at Ntsiki through narrowed eyes. “Since when does the library hand out pills and condoms?”
“Since the clinic arranged for a nurse to meet us there on Wednesdays after school.” Ntsiki places her hands over her face. “Away from prying eyes.”
“That’s awesome! Maybe now we’ll have fewer girls throwing away their lives.” Taylor grabs Ntsiki and hugs her. “I’m glad you’re being responsible.”
* * * * *
“Sex is meant to be enjoyed. Humans have sex for pleasure, and it’s lekker, right?” Nurse Busi says, after introducing herself. “A whole lot of lekker fun getting a baby inside of you. But believe me: it’s not much fun getting the baby out!”
Muffled giggles fill the air.
“Did you know you can fall pregnant without penetration?”
Ntsiki shakes her head. Yhu! What is this nurse smoking? I’m still a virgin.
“Oh, it’s possible – even if you’re a virgin. Those little tadpoles can wiggle their way up your vagina even before your partner has climaxed.”
“The chances are slim, but not unheard of. There’s sperm in the pre-ejaculation fluid. Not nearly as much as in semen, but enough to impregnate you – and possibly infect you with HIV if your partner has the virus.”
Several girls roll their eyes and wonder whether they’re wasting their time listening to this whack nurse.
“I’m pleased to see so many of you here, taking responsibility for your future,” Nurse Busi continues. “But safe sex is not just about condoms and pills. How many of you have had an HIV test?”
The girls look around at each other, but nobody raises a hand.
“There are many ways to contract the HIV virus. But please remember: you cannot get HIV from sharing a house with someone who is HIV positive.”
She starts handing out brochures.
“These leaflets will give you more information on HIV and AIDS, including the things you simply can’t get infected from.
“Knowing your status is not about blame and shame, ladies. It’s about self-love and caring about yourself and your loved ones, so encourage them to get tested too.”
“My boyfriend will never agree. He says he’s faithful to me, so I should trust him,” says Akhona, Ntsiki’s classmate.
Nurse Busi shakes her head and smiles. “Does your boyfriend go to the barber shop for his haircuts?”
The muscles in Akhona’s face tighten. “Err … yeeeeees … but what does that have to do with safe sex?”
“Ask him whether he’s noticed the barber sterilising his tools after every haircut. All it takes is one small nick, a drop of blood, and your boyfriend is at risk if the previous client was HIV positive.”
Akhona’s eyes bulge. “What the fu … sorry Miss.”
“That’s one of the problems with HIV positive people – they seldom look sick. Many have never been tested and don’t know they have the virus. So … who’s brave enough to go first? It’s totally private,” she assures the girls. “And what is five minutes compared to the rest of your life?”
Akhona moves toward Nurse Busi. “I’m not taking any chances. My boyfriend better condomise his whole body from now on.”
Tell us what you think: The epidemic of HIV and AIDS has been around for a long time now, and effective medicines are available. Are young people getting complacent about it; being careless, because it is not in the media etc so often?