Young people are demanding information and education about their bodies, sex, their sexuality and sexual health, as well as access to services that will support them to stay safe and healthy. Papers published in the latest themed issue of Reproductive Health Matters (RHM) demonstrate that information and services in fact remain unavailable to many young people, and many may grow up without fully understanding things that they are currently experiencing such as menstruation, let alone preparing themselves for future sexual relationships and adulthood.
In some cases misinformation is being disseminated or reinforced by the very people who are entrusted with young people’s care. For example those living with HIV whose care-givers are telling them, or allowing them to believe, that they will not be able to have sexual relationships. In fact several papers demonstrate the power of families, and communities reinforcing the status quo and resisting change; sometimes actively colluding in, condoning, and encouraging harmful conventions such as early marriage, coercive and transactional sex.
The importance and needs of adolescents have been addressed in programmes of action, policy documents, conventions, conference resolutions, and task force recommendations over recent years. However, as one paper sets out thoroughly, 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.
For the first time links to 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.
The issue “Young people, sex and relationships” of Reproductive Health Matters, Volume 21, Issue 41, p 4-264 (May 2013) published by Elsevier, is now available on ScienceDirect.