Ugandan gov’t urged to provide contraceptives to adolescents

Ugandan gov't urged to provide contraceptives to adolescents
Millions of adolescent men and women aged 15-19 in developing regions are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy

Reproductive health experts have asked the government to provide contraceptives to adolescents to stop unsafe abortions.

The experts who include medical doctors are asking government to include the provision of contraceptives in the Comprehensive Sexuality Education Policy.

The call was made during the launch of the National Research Dissemination on Induced and Post Abortion Care among adolescents in the country. It follows a study that shows 45 percent of adolescents between the ages of 15-19 are in need of contraceptives compared to 30 percent of married ones.

Dr Charles Kiggundu, Gynaecologist Mulago hospital says that adolescents should be given contraceptives since girls as young as 15 are getting pregnant.

The current reproductive health policy at the ministry of health states that family planning methods like oral contraceptives should only be given to persons that are 18 years and above.

Dr Justine Bukenya, Makerere University School of Public Health says that family planning services should be given to adolescents because some are sexually active.

According to the study, 2.3 million pregnancies in the country are unwanted. Of this number 57,000 abortions are estimated to have taken place among adolescents in 2013.

More than half of which are carried out in unsafe conditions which put the lives of both the teenage mother and foetus at risk.

Dr Dorothy Balaba, Country Representative Population Services Uganda says that young people in the country need to get the right information about sex.

“Young people are not getting the right kind of sex education from schools and parents. They need more information about the options available when they find themselves in hard situations.”

The 2016 Uganda Health and Demographic Survey shows that one out of four females aged between 15-19 have experienced at least one sexual encounter by the time they are 15 years.

Last year, President Yoweri Museveni opposed a ministry of health proposed Reproductive Health Policy to offer contraceptives to learners as a means of controlling teenage pregnancies saying that they are meant for adults who want to start families.

Dr Daniel Nkaada, Commissioner Basic Education says that offering contraceptives to adolescents might send mixed messages. “The sexuality education framework is not meant to discuss family planning. If we begin giving contraceptives to students in schools, we shall be sending mixed messages. We shall be allowing students to have intercourse in schools yet they go to school to learn.”

Dr Dinah Nakiganda, Assistant Commissioner Reproductive Health, Ministry of Health says that they have worked towards increasing contraceptive use in the country. “We are working towards making sure that all Ugandans who need contraceptives can easily access them when they need to.”

According to doctors, contraceptives can be used to also regulate the monthly cycle of women. Dr Kiggundu says that while people think that contraceptives are only meant for adults for family planning, they offer a wide range of other advantages.

“Some adolescents have irregular monthly periods and others suffer from pain. Contraceptives can help relieve this pain and some adolescents take them under these conditions.