According to WHO adolescents are persons between 10-24yrs of age. This age is characterized by rapid physical growth and development as well as sexual maturation. Adolescents are also more risk-taking prone. This increases their risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Taking into consideration that most adolescents become sexually active at this age, it is therefore critical to ensure adolescents are armed with information that can enable them self-promote their sexual and reproductive health.
Sadly, adolescent health and their risk for HIV infection is continue to receive poor prioritization. This is worsened by the complexity of their lives – parents, healthcare worker. Healthcare practitioners are not open to suggestions about adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health products.
Imagine for a moment that you are a young person living in a “too spiritual home” where sexual education is never a topic, but eventually you get mixed up with peers who find unsafe sexual practices, injecting drug use a normal way of life. How can the adolescent negotiate this complexity?
Or the case of a young adolescent who is an injecting drug user, has been criminalised for drug possession and sent to an adult prison, but is unable to access harm reduction and HIV services because the society thinks they are under aged.
Sadly, there are many cases of sexually active adolescent girls woman who are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services to protect herself from HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy because of the need for parental consent may be unable to access sexual and reproductive health services in order.
We as healthcare practitioners need to prevent creating a vacuum for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. We need to help create the space for young people to voice out their needs.
Resolving some of the ethical dilemmas involved in working with most at risk young people won’t happen overnight. Neither will we overcome the prejudices adolescents face from healthcare workers about their sexual and reproductive health needs. We as advocates however need to continue to put the pressure on for the needed change. Young people need to be listened too. They don’t need discrimination. They shouldn’t be denied access to evidence based interventions because of their age. Poor sexual and reproductive health habits are formed at this age. We need to take extra care and go the extra mile to support their development of health sexual and reproductive health practices.