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What is pandemic fatigue?

What is pandemic fatigue?

Living through a pandemic can take its toll on our physical and mental well-being. As the weeks go by under lockdown, many of us have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings, from sadness to anger to tiredness. This is known as ‘pandemic fatigue’. Here’s all you need to know about it.

What is pandemic fatigue?

Pandemic fatigue is the exhaustion you may be feeling after spending over a year dealing with our new life and all the struggles that come with it. You may have lost loved ones, jobs, missed out on experiences and life milestones, like graduations, weddings, and funerals.

You may feel cooped up or cut off from your usual hobbies. You may even be tired of the safety protocols that take extra time. You may also be missing family and friends that you haven’t been able to visit due to the lockdown. All these feelings contribute to pandemic fatigue.

How to overcome pandemic fatigue:

Reflect and accept

Take time to check in with yourself and reflect on how you’re doing. If you feel irritated, impatient, angry, or are suffering from fatigue, accept that all these responses are normal and understandable during such a difficult time.

Monitor your social media

Limiting the amount of time you spend on social media can help reduce feelings of tiredness. Purposely tuning in to negative stories on TV or on social media fuels fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and fatigue.

Be compassionate with yourself

Don’t expect perfection and don’t get stuck in mistakes or missed chances. Nobody prepared us for the pandemic. We’re all taking it one day at a time, and it’s completely fine if you don’t have all the answers or always know what to do.

Prioritise self care

Since we’re spending most of our days at home due to the lockdown, it’s important to make sure we take care of our physical and mental health. You can do this through exercise and active self-care, as well as staying connected with friends virtually and online. As a wise person said, we isolate now so that no one is missing when we get together.

We’re living through a period of increased anxiety over our health, vulnerable loved ones, finances and job security. With the future looking uncertain and the public instructed to stay at home, many of us are feeling isolated and stressed. If you’re finding it difficult to cope with anxiety reach out to me.

Pandemic fatigue is real, and the way it affects you may not be the same for a friend or family member. Although it seems hard, we need to find a way to respect these new boundaries, but still live the version of life we’re used to.

Using a condom: 7 answers to common excuses

Using a condom: 7 answers to common excuses

Condoms, if used correctly and consistently, are the only form of protection that can prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. If your partner has an excuse not to wear a condom, it’s NOT okay and you don’t have to accept their excuse. Here are 7 common excuses you’ve probably heard, and some responses to use.

Excuse 1: “It doesn’t feel as good with a condom”.

Response: “Using a condom will make me feel more relaxed, if I am more relaxed, I can make it feel better for you”.

If the condom feels uncomfortable, you could be using the wrong size. Condoms are available in different sizes, it’s just about finding the right fit. it’s a good idea to try out different brands and sizes until you find one that works for you and your partner.

Excuse 2: “I don’t have an infection, trust me”.

Response: “I trust you, but people can have infections without showing any symptoms, let us rather be safe than sorry”.

Not all STIs show visible symptoms, so it’s always a good idea to use a condom every time, to protect yourself.

Excuse 3: “I love you; can’t you do this for me”?

Response: “I love you too, but we need to protect ourselves and not risk our future. If you really love me, you will respect my decision”.

Being in a healthy relationship means that you’re mindful of your partner’s health and respect each other’s decisions.

Excuse 4: “Just this once”.

Response: “Once is all it takes”.

The risk of contracting an STI or facing an unplanned pregnancy can happen anytime you have sex, even if it’s your first time having sex.

Excuse 5: “I can’t feel anything with a condom”.

Response: “It may not feel better with a condom, but an STI will feel worse”

Wearing a condom can still feel good and be intimate. If your partner is concerned about not feeling anything, ultra-thin condoms are the way to go.

Excuse 6: “It interrupts our passion”.

Response: “Not if I help you put it on.”

You can always help your partner put the condom on as part of foreplay. The use of a female condom is ideal, as it can be inserted hours before sex. This will prevent any interruptions. Just remember NOT to use a female and male condom together at once. Wearing one condom is good enough.

Excuse 7: “I don’t have a condom”.

Response: “I do!”.

It’s important for women to take control and share the responsibility of carrying condoms. This shows that you care about your health and your future. Female condoms are a great choice. It’s always a good idea to be responsible for your own protection and have your own condoms when your partner doesn’t have one.

Using a condom is all about responsibility and having respect for one another. You have the right to protect yourself and your health. Knowing how to respond to your partner about using a condom can protect you from STIs and unplanned pregnancy. 

HIV and AIDS and your rights

HIV and AIDS and your rights

HIV/AIDS Stigma has a negative impact on those who want or need to test and receive treatment due to the amount of judgement surrounding the illness within communities. As a result, those needing treatment are often afraid to seek HIV services due to the fear of being seen and experiencing discrimination from the community.  Discriminatory views are influenced by many factors, including ignorance about HIV transmission. People living with HIV/AIDS have the same rights as every other person in society and we should ensure that their rights are also protected.

Rights of people living with HIV

  • No person may be tested for HIV infection without his or her consent beforehand.
  • You can consent for an HIV test without parental consent if you are over the age of 12.
  • You are free to make your own decision about whether to be tested or not. You can’t be forced to test.
  • Pre-test counselling should occur before an HIV test is undertaken.
  • Post-test HIV counselling should take place before the person receives their HIV test results.
  • People with HIV and AIDS have the right to confidentiality and privacy about their health and HIV status.
  • Information about a person’s HIV status may not be disclosed to anybody without that person’s fully informed consent.
  • People with HIV/AIDS have the same rights to education, housing, food, social security, medical assistance and welfare as all other members of our society.
  • Medical schemes may not discriminate against any person on the basis of his or her state of health.
  • People have a moral and legal responsibility to tell their sex partners if they are HIV positive and no one has the right to disclose on their behalf.
  • All people have the right to proper education and full information about HIV and AIDS and how to prevent it.

The Right to access healthcare

Every person in South Africa has a constitutional right to access healthcare services as part of the Bill of Rights and should not be discriminated against. Discrimination by the community and by healthcare workers prevents many people from being open and honest when they seek medical help. It also discourages people from seeking and adhering to HIV prevention and treatment services. If a clinic refuses to provide clinical services to you based on your status, you have the right to report it to the clinic Matron or the Ministry of Health.

Confidentiality of HIV results

The results of your test including your identity should remain strictly confidential. If your right to confidentiality has been abused, you can make a claim for damages against the health care worker or the hospital/clinic which abused your rights. You can also lay a criminal charge against the health care worker, or the head of the hospital or clinic employing the worker.

Your HIV status should not determine how you are treated by those in the community. People living with HIV have the same rights as everyone else in society and these rights should be protected at all time. Being HIV positive doesn’t make anyone less worthy than the next person. Remember that people living with HIV can live a full, healthy life by taking their treatment as prescribed and taking care of themselves. I encourage you to share these rights with friends, family and those in your community so that we can eliminate the stigma around HIV/AIDS and eventually achieve an AIDS free generation.

Do you know your SRH rights?

Do you know your SRH rights?

Good Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) means that you have the knowledge, access to services, and ability to make responsible, informed sexual decisions, including choosing not to have sex until you feel ready. Knowing your SRH rights will ensure that you practice them and can support others to do the same. Here’s some SRH rights to be aware of.

Right to access reproductive health services and facilities

Our constitution gives you the right to have access to affordable, high-quality services that respect your privacy. You have the right to contraceptives, an HIV test, prenatal services and other medical care at any clinic or health facility. It’s important to be aware of the laws and policies that limit you from accessing certain clinical services. Unfortunately, these include regulations that require a minimum age or parental consent.

Right to say no

You have control over your body and your sexuality without any form of discrimination, coercion, or violence. If you’re not ready or don’t feel up to it, you’re free to express your feelings to your partner, without a reason. You also have the right to withdraw consent any time during a sexual activity without feeling guilty. If your partner pressures you or threatens to break up with you because you don’t want to have sex or do any other sexual activity, it’s a clear sign that they don’t respect your SRH rights.

Right to safe sex

You should never be afraid to practice good sexual health and safety. Being prepared and being safe not only prevents you and your partner from getting or spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV, but it also prevents unwanted pregnancies. Remember to practice safe sex every time, which means never letting your partner pressure you into having sex without any sort of protection.

To be sexually healthy, you need to be able to have consensual, pleasurable, and safe sexual experiences, where no one is forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do or being violent and discriminating against your sexual choices. It also means having the right to access to sexual health information and services at your nearest clinic, and free of charge at public health clinics

What is the dual protection method?

What is the dual protection method?

No method of contraception is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy, but some are more reliable in reducing your chances of falling pregnant and contracting STIs. The dual protection method prevents against falling pregnant while also protecting you against STIs, including HIV. Here’s more.

When people don’t know how the dual protection method works, they’re more likely to experience unplanned pregnancy or STI infection. This method involves using a male/female condom, which is used to prevent STI infection and pregnancy, with another highly effective contraceptive method, like the pill, patch, IUD or injection, which further prevents unplanned pregnancy. The method makes sure you’ve got extra protection.

Why should you consider this method?

Many couples stop using condoms once they’ve been committed to each other for a while. Some believe this is a sign of deeper intimacy and trust, but I strongly advise against this. Trust has nothing to do with the importance of protecting yourself and your health.

Regardless of your relationship status, or the nature of your relationship, it’s important to think about using condoms and a contraceptive method to protect yourself against unplanned/unwanted pregnancy and STIs. This method also gives you peace of mind, knowing that you’re doing the best you can to protect yourself.

Hormonal birth control is currently the most effective, reversible method of birth control when used correctly, but it only has an average percentage of 92% in terms of effectiveness when used alone, and condoms are only 98% effective, when used alone.

Using a condom with a birth control method like the pill, IUD, patch or injection, ensures that you’re protected in situations where you may miss a dose. It’s also important to make sure you get tested for pregnancy, STIs and HIV if either contraceptive method fails.

Using the dual contraceptive method can protect you and your partner against unplanned pregnancies and STI infection. Condoms and certain types of contraceptives are easily available at local clinics for free. You can always talk to your healthcare provider about your contraceptive options. Protecting yourself and your partner should always be a priority, so use a condom every single time you have sex, no matter what your partner says. After all, safe sex is the best sex.

Which contraceptive is best for you?

Which contraceptive is best for you?

Choosing the right contraceptive can be very tricky when there are so many options to choose from (long term and short term). Remember that everyone’s body is different and what works for your friend might not be the best option for you. Here are the different types of contraceptives that you can discuss with your healthcare provider on your next visit.

The implant

What is it: The implant is a matchstick-sized rod that’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It works by releasing the hormone progestin in small amounts. The implant is a great option for women who want long-lasting, reversible birth control that they don’t need to think about every day.

Advantages: The implant is considered one of the most effective birth control methods and you won’t have to keep visiting your family planning facility to maintain it (unlike the pill or injection).

Disadvantages: You’ll need to see a healthcare professional to have the implant inserted. It’s a hormonal contraceptive, which means it doesn’t offer protection against STIs and HIV, so you’ll need to keep using condoms.

Intra-uterine device (IUD)

What is it: The IUD is a T-shaped device that’s inserted into a woman’s uterus (womb). There are two types of IUDs – a non-hormonal one made from copper, and another one that releases the hormone progestin. The IUD may be a good option if you struggle to keep up with a scheduled contraceptive, like the pill or injection.

Advantages: Depending on the type of IUD you go for, it can protect you from pregnancy for up to 12 years. It’s also reversible, so if you decide you want to get pregnant, you can get it removed at any time. It won’t affect your fertility or make it harder to get pregnant in the future.

Disadvantages: A health professional will need to insert your IUD. A hormonal IUD may have some side effects, while a copper one can make your period longer and/or heavier.

Injectable

What is it: Injectable contraceptives usually contain the hormone progestin and are given through a shot in the arm every three months. It’s ideal for someone who may forget to take a pill every day and doesn’t want something permanently inserted.

Advantages: The injection is safe to use when breastfeeding, isn’t affected by any other medication you’re on and it can alleviate (make better) heavy, painful periods and help with premenstrual symptoms (PMS) for some women.

Disadvantage: Some women can experience irregular or missed periods once they stop taking the injection. This can delay you falling pregnant if you’re planning to.

The pill

What is it: There are many different types of contraceptive pills. Most of them contain oestrogen and progestin (hormones) but some have progestin alone. If taken at the same time every day, without skipping a dose, the pill can be as effective as the impant.

Advantages: The pill can sometimes help women with hormone-related acne and help make menstrual cramps (period pains) better.

Disadvantages: At first, taking the pill can cause temporary side effects like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about any side effects you may be experiencing so that they can explore a better option for you.

Condom (male and female)

What is it: The male condom is a sheath (tightly fitting covering) made from latex (rubber), polyurethane and tactylon (both are types of plastic) which covers the penis during sex.

The female condom is a soft, loose-fitting pouch with a ring on each end. One ring is inserted into the vagina to hold the female condom in place. The ring at the open end of the condom remains outside the vagina.

Advantages: Condoms are the only methods of birth control that help prevent pregnancy while also protecting against STIs. Even if you’re already using a different kind of birth control to avoid pregnancy, it’s a good idea to use condoms every time you have sex for extra protection.

Remember Igniter, there are many factors to consider when choosing a contraceptive, including your medical history, how you respond to treatment, your lifestyle and preferences. The journey to finding the best contraceptive for you can take a bit of trial and error, so you’ll need to keep talking to your doctor or nurse.

Think you are pregnant? Here are 5 signs

Think you are pregnant? Here are 5 signs

Missing a period is the most common sign of pregnancy, but for some women, this may not be the case. So, what are some other signs that you may need to look out for if you suspect that you’re pregnant? Here are 5.

Spotting

Factors like stress, diet and lifestyle changes can cause changes in your period, so it’s important to keep track of your cycle. If your period is late by a week or more, it’s advised that you take a pregnancy test as soon as possible, especially if you’ve had unprotected sex recently.

It’s also wise to take a pregnancy test if you’ve been spotting between periods. Spotting is light bleeding from the vagina, where the color is anything from red to brown. This can occur in the early months of pregnancy and a lot of people confuse it with periods because they can be so similar.

Breast tenderness

Another early sign of pregnancy is breast tenderness. Breasts may feel fuller and heavier, and you might even notice the area around your nipples getting larger and darker. However, you can also experience breast pain and heaviness when your period is approaching. This is because in the days leading up to your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels can fluctuate (increase or decrease) dramatically, which can increase the glands and size of the breasts.

Remember, if you’re experiencing constant soreness, swelling, heaviness, shooting or burning pangs and tightness in your breasts even after your period, it’s advised to see a healthcare professional and get medical attention.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness is a very common symptom of pregnancy, which is often described as nausea and occasional (or frequent) vomiting. Although not everyone experiences morning sickness, it usually happens within the first month of pregnancy and is often one of the first signs.

Feeling dizzy and tired

Headaches, exhaustion and dizziness are common during early days of pregnancy. This happens because of hormonal changes in the body and the increased blood volume.

Shortness of breath

A lot of women experience shortness of breath during the early months of pregnancy. This is because of a lot of factors – from a growing uterus (womb), to increased demands on your heart. If you’ve been experiencing some of these symptoms, then it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test. 

Testing for Pregnancy

You can test for pregnancy for free at any local clinic or buy a test at your nearest pharmacy for as little as E20.00. If you go to the clinic, a quick test will be done and you’ll have your results within minutes. If you choose buy a home pregnancy test, it’s important that you read and follow the instructions on the box for accurate results. It’s also recommended that you take your home pregnancy test first thing in the morning. Remember that a DIY pregnancy test is not accurate and will probably give you a false result.

It’s important to test for pregnancy as early as possible to avoid doing anything that may affect your health and that of your baby if you are pregnant. This also gives you time to look at your options  and decide what’s best for you. You can take a pregnancy test as early as 3 weeks after having unprotected sex.

Pregnancy symptoms are different for every woman. Some women notice symptoms really early on, while others don’t have any. If you’re sexually active and have missed a period and are experiencing any of the signs I’ve mentioned, then it’s advisable to take a pregnancy test. Remember, if you and your partner are not ready for a baby, it’s good to use the dual protection method (using a condom with a contraceptive such as the pill) to prevent pregnancy and protect yourselves against STIs.

Circumcision

What is circumcision?

Male circumcision is an operation where the foreskin that covers the head of the penis is removed. As a male over the age of 16 years old, you can choose to be circumcised at a local clinic or hospital – if you are younger you can also be circumcised with permission from your parents or guardian.

Why do people get circumcised?

  • There may be a medical reason. For example, the foreskin might be too narrow to go over the head of the penis when a person gets an erection.
  • There is a cultural or religious reason for removing the foreskin.

Circumcision and your health

  • Circumcision reduces your chance of getting infected with HIV and others sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, you can still get infected! You will still need to use a condom for protection.
  • Chances of HIV infection are higher than normal while the circumcision wound is healing so wait to heal before you have sex.
  • Circumcision does not reduce your risk of HIV infection if you have anal sex.
  • Circumcision does not influence your desire to have sex (sex drive).
  • Getting circumcised does not influence the size of your penis.
  • If you are circumcised, you can still enjoy sex and have orgasms. However, the head of the penis becomes a little less sensitive. So getting an orgasm might take a bit longer.

Circumcision and pregnancy

  • Getting circumcised does not lower your chances of getting someone pregnant.

Here is what to expect when you go for a circumcision:

  • When you arrive at the clinic or hospital, you will receive counselling. 
  • You will also be tested for HIV and STIs.
  • A nurse will prepare you for the operation. Your circumcision will be done by a doctor who is specially trained. 
  • Circumcision is done under local anaesthetic (an injection that numbs the area). 
  • The operation takes between 20 and 30 minutes. You don’t need to stay overnight.
  • After the operation, you will be given instructions on how to keep the wound clean. 
  • After circumcision, avoid sex or masturbation for 6 weeks until the wound heals completely

Learn about what contraceptives are

What are contraceptives?

Contraception is a tool to protect you from falling pregnant when you are sexually active. There are different kinds of contraceptive methods that men and women can use to prevent pregnancy.

Remember! All contraceptives protect you from pregnancy but only one can protect you from all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. This is why it is a good idea to always use two contraceptives – known as dual protection – a condom and another contraceptive method.

To be safest and healthiest, dual protection is the way to go!

In Eswatini, if you are at least 12 years and older, you have the right to access contraceptives for free at your local public clinic or hospital without your parents’ permission. The clinic nurses and doctors can will help you choose the best method for you. You can also learn more about the method that’s right for you down below.

There are two categories of contraceptive methods:

Short-acting contraception

These types of contraception methods work best when they are used in short time intervals from single use (e.g. the condom), daily intake (e.g. the pill) to up to 3 months (e.g. the injection). These contraceptives need to be used or taken regularly or each time you have sex and all of these methods can be used over many years. They are reversible, meaning that once you stop using them, the contraceptive effect wears off quickly and women can become pregnant.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs)

Long-acting reversible contraception is a term used to describe contraceptives which protect against pregnancy for a long period of time. They are the most effective contraceptives because they do not depend on you remembering to take or use them to be effective.
Both the hormonal implant and the intrauterine methods are available for long-acting protection, and are highly effective in keeping you pregnancy free for up to 3, 5 or 10 years. They are reversible, meaning that once you stop using them the contraceptive effect wears off quickly and women can become pregnant.

Explore all the methods under these categories and make sure you discuss anything that interests you with your partner and healthcare provider.

Want to find out more about long-acting reversible contraceptives? Watch this video!