ADOLESCENT SEXUAL & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

WELCOME TRUST, FOCAP, November 2002

 

Introduction: Adolescent sexual behavior now constitutes a critical focus for sexual and reproductive health researchers, workers, experts and decision makers. Considering the case of Cameroon, very few and isolated studies have been done on teenage sexuality. A two-year study has show that teenage pregnancies represent 14,7% of all pregnancies in the country with yearly rising tendency.

In the East, West and Nord-West provinces, CARE (1996) indicates that there is a constant rise in sexual promiscuity and multiple partners among the youth leading to a high prevalence of STI and unwanted pregnancies. In another study, it is estimated that at age 15, about 16% of adolescents in Cameroon are already sexually active while 9% have had an unwanted child (Oum, 1993). At the age 19, about 52% of female adolescents in the country are already mothers of at least one child with quasi totality of them said to de sexually active (Balépa et Lamlemn, 1997).


Methods: Data was collected from four randomly selected Administrative Divisions of the West Province, namely: Mifi, Menoua, Upper-Nkam and Nde. The study was cross-sectional and combined qualitative and quantitative methological approaches. The population target of the study was adolescents cover the age-group 10-19 years who had been resident in the area for a minimum of six months successively. Data collection was done using FGD, interview guides and the questionnaire. Qualitative data were retrieved for content analysis. As concerns quantitative data, Epi info and SPSS were used for data analysis and capture. 


Findings: Questionnaires were administered to 1520 adolescents. The sample is distributed almost equally between boys 767(50, 5%) and girls 753(49, 5%). Concerning place of residence, it appears that the rural milieu (55%) was more represented than the urban areas (45%). The qualitative data showed that the majority of adolescent received little material or financial support from parents to satisfy their basic needs. Intra-familial dialogue, especially dialogue between parents and children on matters of sexuality was limited but reported to have improved over the last couple of years with the advent of HIV/AIDS. The proportion of adolescents who thought that their parents were okay with them having sexual relationships was relatively low and represented less than 1 respondent in 10; (7% among the boys against 3% among the girls). Concerning sexual experience, the proportion of adolescents who were sexually experienced was higher among respondents of 15-19 years as against those of 10-14 years (68% vs 11% boys, 58% vs 9% girls). The vast majority of them become sexually active before the end of adolescence. The survey showed that up to 19 years of age, 7 girls in 10 and 8 boys in 10 were already initiated into sexual activity. Knowledge of reproductive health varied significantly with gender. Overall, girls were more knowledgeable than boys about key reproductive issues such as the menstrual cycle, the fertile period. Concerning HIV/AIDS, all the adolescents knew about the existence and its consequences, very few adolescents including those who were sexually initiated saw themselves to be at risk of being infected by HIV. Only about half (50%) of sexually experienced adolescents had ever used a condom and by far less than that percentage reportedly did so during their last sexual intercourse. Poor SRH (Sexual Reproductive Health) knowledge among adolescents was exacerbated by the fact that neither the home nor the school provided a base for the acquisition of such knowledge. Parents were culturally not used to discussing sex with their children and the school curricula did 


Conclusion: Problem confronting adolescents are diverse, suggesting the necessity to face them using a multisectorial approach that should include the entire stakeholders, that is, the family, the school, and community actors who are likely to influence the health behavior of adolescents.         

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