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Adolescents are Too Important To Be Ignored


By Fredrick Oliech Okunson (@MikeOkunson)

Over 9 million Kenyans are adolescents aged 10 to 19 years. In Kenya adolescents face many sexual and reproductive health challenges such as early pregnancies, STIs and HIV. According to the Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014, 11% of girls and 20% of boys aged 15 to 19 years started to have sex before the age of 15 years. The unmet needs of contraception among young girls between the age of 15 to 19 years stands at 20%. Furthermore 20% of girls in this same age group have begun child bearing and most of these pregnancies are usually unintended. New HIV infection among boys and girls between the age of 15 to 19 years stands at 70% for girls and 30% for boys. Moreover 23% of adolescents aged 15-to 19 years know their HIV status and out of those aged 10 to 19 years, 105,680 are in need of ART. Comprehensive knowledge of HIV among the adolescents is very low.

Inadequate access to Comprehensive sexuality education and access to quality, affordable, youth friendly and stigma free sexual and reproductive health information and services has contributed to the rising cases of unintended pregnancies and new case of HIV infection.

Comprehensive sexuality education empowers young people to make healthy choices and decision about their sexual behavior. Global evidence shows that this program helps young people abstain or delay sex, reduce the frequency of unprotected sex and the number of sexual partners which helps reduce the spread of HIV. Moreover Comprehensive Sexuality Education increases the use of contraception among young people to prevent unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and helps delay that first birth to ensure a healthier mother and a safer pregnancy in future.

In addition to education access to youth friendly health services are very important to young people because they help young people address a range of sexual and reproductive health needs. The services should always be available, accessible and affordable so that young people can use these services. They should also be acceptable to all youth and the staff in these facilities should be well trained to provide services with privacy, confidentiality and respect.

On the 3rd of September 2015 the ministry of health launched the Revised National Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy to reaffirm its commitment to ensure that adolescent have access to comprehensive sexuality and reproductive health services and education/ information. The objective of the policy are: to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights, increase access to adolescent sexual and reproductive health information and age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education, reduce STIs and HIV, reduce unintended and early pregnancies, reduce harmful traditional practices, reduce drug and substance abuse and to address the needs of marginalized and vulnerable adolescents.

County and national government need to prioritize implementation of the policy by allocating resources  to strengthen capacities of institutions, service providers and communities to provide appropriate information and services.

Reproductive health is a crucial part of general health and a central feature of human development. Just like a tree adolescents go through many transition as they mature to adulthood. Investing in their sexual and reproductive health will enable them stay healthy. When right policies and programs are implemented to the later, we will ensure that young people live successful lives and ensure social and economic development.


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