Understanding sexual and reproductive health

Health Watch

Regardless of cultural restrictions, adolescent girls do seek abortions for unwanted pregnancies. They often do so in late pregnancy and in dangerous circumstances; putting them at high risk of serious complications such as hemorrhage, septicemia, infertility and even death.

Sexually transmitted infections
Since the beginning of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is widespread in the region, 45 per cent of reported HIV infections and 20 per cent of reported acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases have occurred in the 13 to 29 year age group. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if untreated, can lead to serious health problems including infertility, pelvic inflammatory diseases, cervical cancer, risk of HIV infection, mother-to-child transmission and death.
Sexual abuse
Adolescents, especially adolescent girls, are vulnerable to sexual violence, sexual bullying and commercial sexual misuse, resulting in STIs, unwanted pregnancies, abortions, physical injuries and psychological trauma.

Substance abuse – Tobacco
Tobacco use is linked with more than 40 life-threating diseases for smokers, second-hand smokers and tobacco chewers. The success of tobacco advertising aimed at young people is reflected in the rapidly increasing number of adolescents using tobacco in the region. Up to a quarter of male adolescents aged 15 to 19 years in some countries in the region smoke. Data from various sources show that the estimated occurrence of smoking among adolescents in the region varies from 35 per cent among boys and form 25 per cent among girls. Some adolescents begin smoking as early as 10 years of age. In a number of Pacific island countries, some children begin chewing tobacco at the age of five.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Drug abuse and unnecessary use of alcohol may contribute to accidents, suicides, violence, unwanted pregnancies and STIs (including HIV) among adolescents. They also affect the psychological, educational and social development of adolescents and have a negative impact on the families. On the other hand, adolescents may be abused or hurt because other people (parents, relatives, friends, neighbours or others) who are alcohol and/or illicit drug abusers.

  • Next week’s edition: Substance abuse – Injecting drugs use.