Youth survey reveals challenges to independent choices on sexual health

New research shows nearly 20% of young people never make independent decisions regarding their sexual health.

New research shows that nearly 20% of young people never make independent decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive health.

Incorporating young people in sexual and reproductive health matters, particularly those in marginalised groups and those affected by HIV, is an issue under the spotlight this week at a global conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The results of a global online survey with young people on sexual and reproductive health are being published on 13 November, at the International Conference on Family Planning. The survey was conducted as part of the Link Up project in association with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS (GYCA) and the ATHENA Network.

Reaching one million young people

Link Up is a project to advance the sexual and reproductive health rights of one million young people affected by HIV across Africa and Asia. And the survey highlights how access to services for young people is unlikely to be achieved unless their recommendations are made a reality.

Through the online survey, young people spelled out the barriers to their successful use of sexual and reproductive health services saying that lack of confidentiality and trampling down of their dignity drives them away. They also made recommendations for making services easier to use, such as the service providers using polite language to speak to young people.

During the launch of the report, youth from different countries who had participated, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Myanmar, cited stigma and discrimination, unethical and unprofessional service providers and lack of youth-friendly facilities as key barriers to their accessing sexual and reproductive health facilities.

For young people, by young people

Adebisi Adenipekun, a youth leader from Nigeria, suggested that youth facilities should be managed by young people instead of the general population.

“Young people can easily identify with each other’s challenges as opposed to the rest of the population who express awe at some of the challenges,” he said. Adebisi further pointed out that the name ‘family planning’ is inappropriate in relation to the youth because they are not planning any family yet.

Many young people make unhealthy decisions such as using unsafe abortion methods and abusing medical drugs because of fear to seek help from health facilities. Nafhot Aschenahi, a youth leader from Ethiopia, gave an example of a teenage girl attending an anti-natal clinic who felt stigmatised and uncomfortable because of the way service providers asked her very embarrassing questions.

Nafhot explained that even when the girl was in labor she was not spared insults and humiliation by the people who ought to be taking care of her. “The service providers should understand that there are different circumstances that can lead to pregnancy, including rape,” she observed.

Young people to speak out

Luisa Orza from the ATHENA Network said the launch of this survey was timely, adding that young people need sexual and reproductive health services as much as other parts of the population. She encouraged young people to keep vocalising their needs and to involve their respective governments and policy makers so that their issues may be addressed.

In the community dialogues, 62.5% of the participants identified as young people living with HIV, while 7.5% identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Others were young men who had sex with men and young people who engage in sex work. All community dialogue participants were aged 24 or below. Some declined to identify themselves with any marginalised group for fear of cultural stigma.

Find out more about young people’s visions and priorities on the Alliance website.

Key Correspondents are reporting live from the International Conference on Family Planning and you can follow us on Twitter: @theKCteam

You can also visit FHI360 for  further live blog,  video,  and  social  media  coverage  of  key conversations  emerging  from  2013.

 

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    georgina 4 years

    great piece Lucy! thank you for taking the voices of young people a step further!