teen sexual health goals

Teenage sexual and reproductive health is falling behind goals set 20 years ago.

Twenty years after a global conference urged better sexual and reproductive health services for teens, a new study shows disappointing results, reports Women’s E News. The study, published this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health, highlights the degree to which the goals set have been unmet.

The study’s key findings include:

  • An estimated 16 million births occur annually to women aged 15-19, this represents 11 percent of births worldwide.
  • Of the estimated 22 million unsafe abortions carried out each year, around 15 percent involve women aged 15-19, and 26 percent involve those aged 20-24.
  • Young women make up 60 percent of young people living with HIV around the world.
  • Adolescents, especially girls, make up a large part of domestic violence victims, an estimated 30 percent are girls aged between 15-19.

The authors of the report cite several ways of improving these figures. Education of young people, women in particular, is key. Research from eastern, central and southern Africa has shown higher levels of secondary education are associated with lower HIV rates.

Poverty is another key factor, lowering poverty rates will decrease the incidence of young women selling sex for basic necessities, money, schools fees, and other items such as mobile phones.

Twenty years ago the UN International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo set a goal of enabling adolescents to deal with their sexuality in a healthy and responsible way. The report released this month has found, while several countries have set programmes and aims to help meet the UN goal, many are short-lived, poorly monitored, and evaluated.

There were some positive conclusions from the study however, which health policy makers can use when developing new strategies in the future. Parents who are communicative and responsive, for example, are important to teens’ sexual health. Authors cite a parent-centered program to strengthen seventh graders’ families’ abilities to communicate with their teens conducted among low-income Latino households in Miami. After three years, youth in the intervention groups were less likely to report an STI and unprotected sex than peers in the two control conditions.

Media campaigns and large scale communication programmes are also an effective tool in educating and raising awareness of sexual health, the authors conclude.