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End teenage pregnancies, eliminate inequalities and new HIV infections

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According to NACC (National AIDs Control Council) 2018 Kenya HIV Estimates, We have 1,388,169 Persons living with HIV while the new infections were at 44,789. Recently, NCPD (National Council for Population and Development) released new Teenage Pregnancies data report in the country which clearly shows adolescents and teenagers, especially girls are at the receiving end from these issue most of the time, as they face stigma, drop out of school among other effects. In the report, the major drivers of the pregnancies include sexual violence, lack of inadequate information and services on Reproductive health amongst others.

Ending social and health issues that affect the adolescents and young people in all our diversities is key in ensuring a productive economy; they are able to stay in school, work and grow the economy.

In December 2013, Ministers of Education and Health from 20 east and southern African (ESA) countries came together to endorse and affirm their commitment to better health outcomes for adolescents and young people in the region. In their agreement, now commonly known as the ESA Commitment, the Ministers pledged to increase coverage of comprehensive sexuality education, increase access to sexual reproductive health services, reduce unplanned and unintended pregnancies and to eliminate child marriages and gender-based violence among young people in the region by 2020.

Kenya being one of the signatories to the ESA Commitments has made strides in the targets but a lot more is needed to ensure that all the adolescents and young people in all their diversities are able to live freely from any social and health challenges that are preventable.

Amongst other solutions to solve the social and health problem that is Adolescent and Teenage pregnancy is Access to information on reproductive health including The law. As of January – October, Nairobi had recorded 2379 cases according to the launched report. Adolescent Pregnancy puts girls and women at heightened risk of contracting HIV, STIs and Cervical Cancer.

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Access to verified, quality and comprehensive information is one of the most sustainable and best ways to ensure we reduce some of the negative outcomes when it comes to reproductive health in particular and health in general. In fact, CSE seeks to give students, the knowledge, attitude, skills, and values to make informed appropriate and healthy choices about their sexuality and lifestyle. Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) involves giving age-appropriate and culturally sensitive sexuality education to adolescents and young people.

Ending Adolescent and teenage pregnancies should be a collective effort through an inter-ministerial approach and role. Ministry of Health should continue to offer services to survivors of this form of sexual violence, The Ministry of Interior and Coordination together with the Judiciary should effect arrests of suspects and perpetrators and put them to book.

Recommitting to the ESA Commitments will reduce Adolescent Pregnancies and also new HIV infections. We must end inequalities in order to end AIDS because that is where gender based violence and issues like teenage pregnancies stem from. This year’s World AIDs day national theme is “End teenage pregnancy towards eliminating inequalities and new HIV infections.” From an early preventative approach availing information, education on social and health issues; sex and sexuality education remains vital.

As we mark and Celebrate, World AIDs Day on the 1st Dec. 2021, I continue to call for wide access, provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education. This can be actualized through the recommitting of the Eastern and Southern Commitments (ESA) Commitments on Comprehensive Sexuality Education by the Ministry of Education through CS Prof. George Magoha.

Alvin Mwangi 

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Expert

Twitter: @alvinmwangi254  | Nairobi, Kenya

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