Contraceptives and the young by Nathan Laibuch
Please welcome our second guest blogger, Nathan Laibuch, a 4th year student at Pwani University.
Sometime early last month, my public health class was given a task to distribute contraceptives, specifically male and female condoms, as part of a program for HIV awareness at the university. It was a voluntary thing so only a few of us turned up for the job. Being a university, my assumption was that many students would be willing to take the contraceptives since most of them are sexually active.
Turns out, I was wrong.
The students were very reluctant. The men asked if we could take the contraceptives to their rooms. A few quickly took the boxes when they thought no one was looking, dropped them into their back packs and hurried on like nothing had happened. Not a single lady agreed to take a box of condoms.
It was apparent that no one wanted to be seen holding a box of condoms in public. In my opinion, the students were reluctant to take the condoms of fear of being viewed as promiscuous and immoral.
In the course of the day, the response of one student stood out. We managed to stop him and explain what we were doing. He examined the box of condoms we presented to him as though checking the expiry date. Then he asked…
“Instead of distributing these condoms, why don’t you just organize an event and tell the students to abstain?”
It sounded like a genuine question from a concerned student, probably with a firm religious background. But we were sure that he knew that the gospel of abstinence at a place like a public university was dead on arrival.
Abstinence is highly effective contraception. But how pragmatic is it to preach abstinence as the ONLY form of contraception to sexually active young people ?
Advocates for Youth agree have argued that abstinence only programs don’t work..
I am not advocating for or justifying premarital sexual behaviours. But what can we do about it?
The young can be ignorant, curious and vulnerable to peer pressure. No matter how much you preach abstinence, they may not listen.
Growing up, I was made to believe that contraception is only for ‘married couples’ who are planning a family. I therefore formed the idea that perhaps it is okay for an adolescent to have sex without protection because after all, I have no family to plan.
I have been exposed to a myriad of fallacies, misconceptions and differing opinions about contraception. I did not and still do not know what to believe or what not to believe.
As an adolescent, my own parents would not readily discuss contraception or sexuality with me. Perhaps parental advice on this would have formed a more dependable opinion. But since that possibility was nonexistent, I was left to my own imaginations. I listened to hearsay from the media, friends and different religious denominations condemning contraceptive use. I read stories about contraceptives methods that destroy fertility and leave you impotent or barren. At the end of the day, what I had was a highly distorted opinion about contraceptives. But I was not alone..
Rhoune Ochako and other colleagues, conducted research in Nyanza, Coast and Central regions and found that myths and misconceptions were the biggest barriers to the use of modern contraceptives among young Kenyan women..
Research published by Missie Oindo in Kisumu, revealed that although 92% of adolescents are knowledgeable about contraceptives, only about 57% of those who were sexually active used contraceptives…
Why the disparity?
In my opinion, it boils down to perception and attitude. We are not geared to plan ahead. A young person with a willing sexual partner has a few options at their disposal. Either to forgo sex, have unprotected sex or start a search for contraceptives. Due to lack of planning, unprotected sex becomes the easy route despite the consequences.
It is therefore not the level of knowledge about contraceptives that inspires an adolescent’s decision to use or not to use it, but rather their attitude towards contraceptives.
Many interventions focus on haphazardly educating the youth about contraception and not caring to understand them. Perhaps this understanding would help come up with more effective interventions. This can be done for instance, by letting adolescents into the whole truth about contraception and not just telling them why they should not use them.
Most educational programs about contraception choose not to touch on the controversy and misconception surrounding contraceptive use. This has left a knowledge gap that has led to misinformed opinions, perceptions and attitudes towards contraceptives by many adolescents.
If we keep evading thorny issues about contraception, many young people will remain lost unsure of what is right and what is wrong. This uncertainty can only translate to dismal usage of contraceptives by adolescents and youth of this country. It is time interventions and educational programs come clean on the side effects of contraceptives and put right the myths and fallacies surrounding contraception.
That way, perhaps we will be able to change an adolescent’s outlook of contraception and prevent more mistimed or unwanted pregnancies and STIs.
ABOUT NATHAN LAIBUCH
I am a fourth year student at Pwani University taking Bachelor of Science ( Environmental Health).
I am very passionate about writing and spend most of my free time writing short fiction and nonfiction articles on various topics. I am also an ardent reader and a part time blogger.Whenever I get the time, I publish articles on emerging public health issues on my personal blog www.afyahub.blogspot.com