Studies in the latest issue of the journal Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) suggest that information and services regarding sexual issues remain unavailable to many young people.
Researchers found this has led many young people to feel that they may grow up without fully understanding things they are currently experiencing, such as menstruation, let alone preparing themselves for future sexual relationships and adulthood.
In some cases misinformation (or dated information) is being disseminated or reinforced by the very people who are entrusted with young people’s care, according to researchers.
For example, some caregivers for those living with HIV tell them, or allow them to believe, that they will not be able to have sexual relationships.
In the issue, several papers demonstrate the power of families and communities in reinforcing the status quo and resisting change. Researchers found that sometimes this establishment actively colludes in, condones, and encourages harmful conventions such as early marriage, coercive and transactional sex.
The importance and needs of adolescents have been addressed in programs of action, policy documents, conventions, conference resolutions, and task force recommendations over recent years.
However, as one paper explains, policies are often not backed with appropriate action. In the words of editor Marge Berer, there are “miles to go and promises to keep.”
Papers included in the themed issue are from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Nicaragua, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, UK, USA and Zambia.
They address a wide range of issues affecting young people including HIV fears and misconceptions, menstruation, sexual harassment, transgender-related health care, sex education, contraceptive implants, teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, safe abortion, social media for health promotion, and more.
Links to cultually relevant peer-reviewed videos have been included in RHM alongside papers on their production.
Videos from South Africa have been developed to promote sexual health messages; two films from Ecuador were developed to promote discussion of young people’s sexual health needs, as well as older people’s reflections on changing sexual mores.