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Comprehensive sexual education is needed to reduce HIV infection in youths

By okun oliech | August 20th 2016

Belinda Achieng (not her real name) is 16-years-old. She is HIV positive and pregnant. She comes from the rocky sub county of Seme where people have been marginalized for decades.

She tells me that if only she had received comprehensive sexuality education in school, she would have gained some skills which would have enabled her to negotiate for condom use. She continues to tell me that if only she could have access to youth friendly centers where she could have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, she would be a different person by now.

Achieng‘s story is an example of what many young boys and girls go through in this country. According to the National AIDS Control Council young people between the ages of 15 to 24 years account for 29% of all new HIV infections in Kenya. Comprehensive knowledge of HIV and pregnancy is very low among young people in this age group.

Moreover 32% of young people in this same age group reported no condom use at their first sex. Furthermore as relationships build up 90% of women in this age group reported to abandon use of condoms with partners of unknown status. Last but not least adolescents and young people account for 70% of Kenya’s pregnancies and lastly only 24% of adolescents aged 15 to 19 years know their HIV status.

Kenya needs to fulfill its promises to young people. For Kenya to achieve vision 2030 targets which aims to reduce rates of new HIV infections to zero, end sexual and gender based violence and ensure universal access to family planning by all women and men, it must invest heavily on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information/education.

Comprehensive sexual education may be a key part of the solution to ending all these problems that young people face. Comprehensive sexuality education increases condom use, delays first sex, increases HIV testing, reduces number of sexual partners, reduces early and unintended pregnancy and lastly reduces sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Three years ago, on December 7th 2013, health ministers, education ministers and representatives from 20 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa affirmed a landmark commitment supporting sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people. Kenya was among the countries that affirmed this commitment.

I want to remind the government of Kenya of this commitment they made and they should stick by it. By sticking to the commitment they made, we will see millions of young people access the sexual and reproductive health services and information that they need to live healthy and empowered lives. 

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