Monday, 28 April 2008

Protecting the next generation

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

Recommendations and policy implementation strategies resulting from the study done in four African countries on the realities of the sexual and reproductive health of young people were presented yesterday at the on-going ‘Youths Deliver the Future’conference.

According to the study titled "Protecting the next generation" carried out by the African Population and health Research Centre, in Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Bukina Faso, many more young people are sexually aware, while the older ones are becoming sexually active before marriage.

As such, abstinence until marriage is not a message that resonates with many adolescents. When they have to seek sexual and reproductive health services, the study discovered that they prefer going to professional centres rather than family or community gatekeepers. Cost and embarrassment are major barriers to seeking services. Unintended pregnancy was found to be of more importance to adolescent females than HIV infection.

Mandatory sex education is advocated and this education should be started early, at least during the last two classes in primary schools. To ensure the effectiveness of this, there would be a need to insist on mandatory schooling for youths.

Religion plays an important part in the lives of youths and as such, there is a need to work with religious bodies to propagate the

The study recommended among others that:
• Programmes should accept the reality of adolescent sexuality and work to de-stigmatize sexual activity among older un-married adolescents.
• Make services for adolescent quite low, ensure confidentiality and non-judgmental services besides expanding health facilities to meet the needs of the most vulnerable youth
• Target journalists in outreach and new research studies, programme and policy initiatives
• Promote condoms for the prevention of pregnancy, and not only for HIV prevention.
• Promote services to cater for out-of –school youths.

By Nnenna Ike

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