It’s Family Week — Time to Talk

As it observes Family Week, the National Family Planning Board (NFPB) is urging all sectors of society — families, schools, churches, community organisations, among others — to become more involved in sex education of children and teenagers as a means of ending or at least stemming the tide of unsafe sexual practices.

Under the theme: ‘Time to Talk’, the week is being observed from October 26 to 31.

“We are encouraging Jamaicans, during the entire week, to sit down if they haven’t sat down yet, and have a conversation,” board chair Dr Sandra Knight said yesterday at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

She described as alarming the data on factors negatively impacting family life, to include an increase in the incidence of divorce, a decrease in marriages, an increase in the number of single-parent households, an increase in the number of girls admitting to coercing boys to have sex, among a raft of other ills.

Dr Knight explained that Family Week was previously called Family Planning Week, but the ‘Planning’ was dropped to more adequately reflect the NFPB’s broader mandate in respect of sexual and reproductive health.

“The National Family Planning Board, in years past, was known, not intentionally, as a condom distributor, and we felt that our mandate, which was not only a distributor of condoms and contraceptives, was not fairly represented by that statement. So when we were designated by Parliament as the sexual health agency of Jamaica last year, after being integrated with the HIV programme, we felt that we would have a family week which would encompass most of what we should be in terms of sexual and reproductive health,” Knight said.

The topics that will be highlighted during the week include contraceptive choices, condom-use, HIV-testing, stigma and discrimination and what it means to have a healthy family life. The Observer Monday Exchange was one of the activities planned to air some of those issues.

There will also be pop-up clinics across the island from today until Friday; targeted interventions with “key affected populations”, including young people; a national debate on Thursday; and on Friday, a sexual and reproductive health fair in Cross Roads, St Andrew, where people will be able to access free health services including HIV-testing and contraceptive counselling and commodities. The week began with a service at Church of the First Born of Jamaica on Sunday.

“The week’s activities aim to increase awareness about sexual and reproductive issues affecting all sexually and non-sexually active persons in families, schools, churches, and community organisations,” the NFPB said.