Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Talking and listening to youth a crucial step in preventing HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, and more

Despite the advances in treatment, keeping the world’s nearly one billion young people from becoming infected with HIV in the first place represents the most realistic way to curb the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Many committed professionals have designed policies and programmes to help adolescents protect their sexual and reproductive health. Yet in doing so, they rarely ask themselves whether they listen to young people first.

Guttmacher Institute and nine partner organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa embarked on a research study to find out whether the next generation is well protected. The study reveals that across Ghana, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Uganda young people cited fear, shame and embarrassment as their main reason for not going to health clinics and hospitals for sexual and reproductive health care, despite a stated preference for formal health services.

The years between ages 15-20 are marked by a tremendous shift in sexual behaviour, hence the need for young people to access reliable information and nonjudgmental interaction with adults. The study showed that parental monitoring of teenage activities (including their friends) is not of any use if they do not first talk to them about unsafe sex and its implications. One of the most intractable challenges is for adults to accept the reality that adolescents are or will soon be sexually active and therefore need information about how they can protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

By Ambia Hirsi
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

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