Accra, July 7, GNA - A research on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Ghana on Wednesday called for immediate strategies to help protect young people from the current risky sexual and health behaviours.
The report indicated that there was a large gap between the age of first sex and the age at first marriage and explained that females first sexual experience started about two years before their first marriage whilst that of the males took place five years before.
This big gap, according to the report puts adolescents at a higher risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), therefore, the need for immediate measures to address the problems. Professor Kofi Awusabo-Asare, the Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Cape Coast, who led the research team announced this at a symposium organised by the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana in Accra under the theme: "The sexual and reproductive health of Ghanaian Youth: What does the future hold?"
The research, under the heading: "Adolescent and Reproductive Health in Ghana: A synthesis of Research Evidence" was conducted under the Alan Guttmacher Institute Project, protecting the next generation.
Prof. Awusabo-Asare said there was very little reason to explain why the sexual and health behaviours among adolescents were very risky and were on the increase.
"Firm answers that address the question why, are critical to designing and implementing effective sexual and reproductive health programmes to protect the young people", he said.
The Report also revealed that there was a vast gap between awareness of formal medical services on STI diagnosis, treatment and the actual utilisation.
According to the Report though many young people were aware of the professional sources of STIs and the fact that little information existed on the health seeking behaviours of young people, many of them confronted with an STI including HIV/AIDS, do not utilise the medical services available.
He said sexual and reproductive health services for young people were concentrated in urban areas and a few in the semi-urban areas.
Prof Awusabo-Asare said there was the need to maximise the information from surveys and integrate information from other sources of data to shed light on important factors in their decisions and actions. He suggested that sexual and reproductive health programmes for the youth should be improved and strengthened.
"At the same time vital issues facing them such as health information and services, universal basic education, legal protection of women and children, reliable statistics and access to contraceptive use should be critically looked at."
Prof. Awusabo-Asare explained that a large proportion of adolescents did not believe that they were at risk to STIs and the HIV/AIDS menace and there was the need for them to know where to go for information; delay sex and have fewer sexual partners.
He called on the Government, religious leaders and stakeholders to secure a health future for Ghana's next generation.
Representing the youth's perspective, Mr Samuel Kissi and Ms Edina Aryee called for the repackaging of messages on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and youth empowerment to reflect popular youth culture.
They said the Abstinence, Faithfulness and Condom Use should be strengthened as prevention techniques to fight the HIV/AIDS menace, increase knowledge, improve parent-child communication and increase Voluntary Counselling and Testing education and services for young people.
Professor Fred Sai, Presidential Advisor on Population and Health Issues, said such suggestions from research should be written in handy booklets for policy makers to make for easy reading. He said adolescents were very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and called on stakeholders to join hands to address their issues.