Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has launched a new contraceptive method.

“It’s time to double up!” This was the clarion call made by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi at the launch of a new contraceptive device at Ethafeni Clinic in Tembisa, Gauteng.

The contraceptive device – which is a subdermal implant that can be used for three years – is expected to decrease the number of unwanted and teenage pregnancies, while also reducing the number of maternal deaths in the country. It is implanted below the skin of the arm and will be added to the current birth control methods used by women to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Motsoaledi said the subdermal implant will increase the choice of contraceptives already available to women, including condoms, intrauterine contraceptive devices (devices inserted through the vagina into the uterus) and oral and injectable contraceptives.

“The subdermal contraceptive implant will improve sexual reproductive health services and rights in the quest to empower women and their partners with the choice of deciding when they want to have children,” said Motsoaledi.

Motsoaledi said of the one million babies born each year in South Africa, 8% – that is 80 000 – are delivered by teen moms. “These young pregnant women also have a much higher chance of dying from pregnancy-related hypertension. All this adds up to one thing: young girls should not get pregnant,” said the minister.

The minister, however, warned that the new subdermal implant contraceptive will not protect women from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “We must say to young women “Double Up!” This means using a combination of a condom plus another contraceptive. This will serve as a protection against HIV/AIDS and other STIs plus prevent unplanned pregnancies,” he said.

Also at the launch was Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, who lauded this initiative. “The use of contraception by young girls will give these children an opportunity to complete their schooling and become breadwinners in their families. They will bear children once they are ready and not a moment sooner. It is their human right,” she said.

Ntulikazi Mbatha (24) from Tembisa, who was one of the first recipients of the new device, said she was happy that unlike the injection, it had no side effects. The injection, she said, had increased her appetite and added to weight gain.

“The most exciting part is that I won’t default or have to go to the clinic every three months – my next visit to the clinic will be in 2016. With the device I can plan my future properly. I think it would be good for teenagers to also use it so they can finish their studies,” said Mbatha.

The sub-dermal implant will be available at all state health facilities from June 2014. The procedure is done under local anaesthesia and takes about five to seven minutes to complete