In this study session, you have learned that:

  • STIs including HIV are common among young people for biological and psychosocial reasons. Biologically, young women are more susceptible to STIs than older women because of their immature vaginal mucosa and cervical tissue.
  • Adolescents are likely to engage in unsafe sexual practices (including having multiple sexual partners, using prostitutes and not using condoms), which predisposes them to STIs including HIV. This is because they often lack basic information concerning their sexual health, including ignorance of the symptoms, transmission, and treatment of STIs.
  • In most rural areas girls are married at a very early age and they are not empowered to say ‘No’. As a result, young women may have their first sexual experiences with older men while young men may have their first sexual experiences with prostitutes; both behaviours increase the chance of getting STIs including HIV.
  • STIs in young people can lead to multiple long-term negative consequences for their health and social life and can even result in early death. Health problems include pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, fetal death, ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer and related maternal mortality. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can also result in infertility, particularly in women. Chlamydia can cause pneumonia in infants, while neonatal gonococcal infections of the eyes can lead to blindness. Syphilis in adults can cause serious heart and brain disease which can be fatal.
  • Young people can acquire HIV in two ways through infection from their mothers at birth or through unprotected sex during adolescence. This infection history has an impact on how HIV affects a young person and on their HIV care and management.
  • HIV prevention requires active involvement from all members of society including young people themselves, parents, role models, government leaders, the media and people living with HIV and those with AIDS.
  • In general, behaviour changes take time and don’t always automatically follow awareness. Hence, it is important that you provide continuous support whenever you counsel young people who are already engaged in some form of risky behaviours to adopt healthy behaviours.
  • In addition to awareness raising and education of young people on ways of STI prevention, there is a need to provide condoms and refer them for appropriate counselling and HIV testing.
Last modified: Tuesday, 24 June 2014, 1:55 PM