“Baby, let’s take our relationship to the next level; show me how much you love me.”
He starts kissing you; unbuttoning your shirt and touching you wheere it feels good. You start imagining that you’re a character in a love scene from The Bold and the Beautiful, and you get turned on. The idea of sex seems thrilling, but you haven’t thought about the condom, that you’re not on any contraceptive and about waiting until you get married. Have you ever thought of waiting a while before having sex? Is it worth it? We talked to some peeps, Usher, Tumie, Sihle and Candice* about the consequences of their sexual choices.
We first had a chat with Usher, a 21-year-old guy from Athlone, who says abstinence is good for him.
“The reason for my abstinence comes from the values I was taught in my household. My mother taught me that it is a way to respect my partner and myself, not only for the time I am with someone, but in future as well.  I have respect for my body and the person I will one day marry. I am a very open-minded person and I don’t face any challenges when it comes to talking about sex.
In high school all my friends were talking about girls and having sex, and this made me doubt myself. As I grew older, I made up my mind to keep to my original decision of abstaining. I challenge people to understand what it means to have sex before they get involved in a sexual relationship. Having respect for yourself as well as your partner is the first step in thinking maturely. Sex is not a form of love (only if you are married). Abstinence is the best.”
We then visited Candice in Gugulethu — a young mother whose pregnancy came unexpectedly to her.
“I am 16 years old and mother to Sean, my two -year -old son. I fell pregnant when I was 14 years old and was still in grade eight. I had told my boyfriend that I wasn’t ready to have sex but he kept on nagging until I agreed. He said that we were doing this to prove our love for each other and to make it stronger. I believed him and when I asked him to wear a condom he said condoms were things that were used on prostitutes or people with Aids. When I didn’t get my period three months later, I thought nothing of it until I started noticing that my stomach was getting bigger. I immediately knew that I was pregnant and I was too scared to tell my mom because I thought she’d kill me. I told my boyfriend, whose friend advised him to run away, which he did, and I was left all alone not knowing what to do.
“Eventually my mom found out, and she cried and told me how much I’d disappointed her. She took me to the hospital where I did some tests to check if the baby was okay and I had to go there every month until the baby was born. When I went to give birth, my mom was there; she really supported me and she still does. The first few months of motherhood were very tough — having to wake up in the middle of the night to breastfeed, to change a nappy and to turn the baby! Then there are times when my friends were going out and I want go too, but I can’t. Even now that he’s older, when he sees that I’m about to leave, even for school, he grabs my leg and cries.”
Meet a 19-year-old guy who calls himself a “smart playboy”. He says he’s not ready to have one partner because he doesn’t want to commit himself to a relationship, which is why he is so committed to condoms. To him it’s: No condom, no sex, full stop.
“The main reason I use condoms all the time when I’m having sex is the fear of getting someone pregnant, because I’m not financially ready for that, and also the fear of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or HIV/Aids. There are never any challenges really because it’s a road that I’ve walked down many times and it’s what I believe in because I want to live in an HIV-free generation.
The challenges of practising safe sex are trying to convince other people to use a condom when having sex. I have an open relationship and the girls that I’ve been with don’t have a problem with what I do. I always have a condom in my pocket when we’re getting it on, so it’s always a mutual agreement between us. We all have our lives ahead of us and we all want to reach our goals in life. Do not mess up your future just for a few minutes of pleasure. Always think ahead; it helps me and it can help you too.”
Lastly meet Sihle, an HIV-positive guy from Green Point who was willing to share his story with us because he sees it as a way to reach out to every young person out there.
“I’m 22 years old; I started being sexually active when I was 14 years old. It was a fun thing to do back then because everyone was doing it. It was even cooler if you had more than one girlfriend, to show people how hot you were. In 2008, one of my girlfriends told me that she’d been to the clinic and that she was HIV positive. She told me to get tested as well and I did, and the results were positive. I got the fright of my life and started thinking about the way I’d been living my life and if only I had been careful, but it was too late. I had to accept my situation and find a way forward. This year, I started on ARVs and, I must say, it’s not easy. I have to take them every day at exactly the same time and if I miss the time, the nurse tells me that I may become resistant to the medication. (The pills may stop working for me.) I wish I could turn back the hands of time, but I can’t. I have to live my life as it is and focus on keeping myself healthy.”
What our experts have to say
Sylvia Hulbert, a social worker from Family and Marriage Association of South Africa (Famsa)
Often young people are too shy to go to clinics to ask for contraceptives like the Pill, injections or condoms. These are also available at pharmacies at very affordable prices. Teenage pregnancy increases the risk of HIV infection, so (more than the Pill or injection) using a condom is the safest method of preventing two things at once.
Sister Coetzee, a nurse from Green Point Clinic
Having more than one sexual partner is dangerous, especially if you do not use condoms. You put yourself at risk of getting infected with STDs. It is always best, if you are sexually active, to practise a healthy sexual lifestyle — that is, to only have one sexual partner and to use a condom every time you engage in sexual activities. For example, living with an STD, such as HIV, is not easy because you have to deal with many issues, like taking blood tests frequently to check your CD4 count, which determines the number of healthy cells left in your body. Those cells help your body to fight off diseases and the less you have of those cells, the more chances you have of developing full -blown AIDS and dying of one of the many diseases attacking your body. ARVs are there to slow down the process but they do not cure you of Aids.
*The names in these stories have been changed to protect people’s privacy
For more info, advice and counselling about safe sex, peer pressure on having sex and places where you can get tested for HIV/Aids:
National helpline for HIV/Aids: 0800 012 322
Western Cape: 021 483 5621
Gauteng: 0800 203 886
Love life information: www.lovelife.org.za
Thetha Junction national helpline: 0800 121 900
Counselling: 021 763 5333
Written by: Nana Futshane & Fezeka Qusheka
Illustrations by: Tammy Joy Wicomb
Photos by: Dylan Louw