Promoting the Sexual and Reproductive
Health of Adolescents
• The concerns of different groups of adolescents may not be the same. For instance, boys and girls, married and unmarried adolescents, urban and rural adolescents may have different issues of interest and concern. The needs of adolescents 13-14 are more regarding pubertal development and menstruation, while those of 15-19 years is more regarding sex, pregnancy and contraception.
• Understanding what their interests and concerns are and the underlying reasons for this, may help adults deal with them more effectively.
• Adolescent concerns tend to revolve around the immediate future, while the concerns of adults are for the longer term.
• Information helps adolescents understand how their bodies work and what the consequences of their actions are likely to be. It dispels myths and corrects inaccuracies.
• Adolescents need social skills that will enable them to say no to sex with confidence and to negotiate safer sex, if they wish to. If they are sexually active, they also need physical skills such as how to use condoms.
• Counseling can help adolescents make informed choice; giving them more confidence and helping them feel in more control of their lives.
• Health services can help healthy adolescents stay sexuality healthy, and ill adolescents get back to good health.
• As adolescents undergo physical, psychological and social change and development, a safe and supportive environment in their families and communities can enable them to undergo these changes in safety, with confidence and with the best prospects for health and productive adulthood.
It is wroth stressing that adolescents are a diverse group. For example,
a boy of 12 is at a very different stage of personal development than
a boy of 18. Similarly, he is different in psychological and social
terms from a girl of 12, in addition to obvious physical differences.
Social circumstances can influence personal development; for example,
the health and development of a boy of 12 who is part of a caring middle-class
family is likely to be very different from those of a boy of the same
age who is fending for himself on the street. Finally, even two boys
of the same age, growing up in very similar circumstances, may proceed
through adolescence in different ways, and at different “speeds”.
The sexual and reproductive health service needs of adolescents are
correspondingly heterogeneous. Adolescents who are not yet sexually
active have different needs from those who are; sexually active adolescents
in stable, monogamous relationships may have different needs from those
in more casual relationships. Quite different needs characterize those
faced with unwanted pregnancies or infection, or those who have been
coerced into sex. It is important therefore to be aware of the diversity
of sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents, and to tailor
our responses to their specific needs.