The HIV/AIDS pandemic has led to an increased focus on adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs. This is because reports have shown that this group is quite vulnerable to the scourge. Additionally, to stem the problem, there is a need for advocacy of these programs during adolescence since it is just the right time that the youth are getting more sexually active and aware of their reproductive functions.
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While there are other methods of promoting awareness on the need for adolescent sexual and health education, advocacy seems to be a very important tool. It is defined by the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA 3) as “speaking out and drawing the community’s attention to an important issue and directing policymakers towards a decision.” This definition is consistent with that of other scholars (Kumah 3; IPPF 7).
This paper attempts to answer various questions that relate to advocacy and the need for awareness on adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH). These questions are drawn from various advocacy programs, policies, and modules aiming at making the topic more understandable.
Differences in ASRH and SRH
As a planner for an ASRH program, there are various aspects that one would incorporate that vary from those in general or public sexual and reproductive health (SRH). First of all, ASRH programs should be more cognizant of the need to include the youth in their policy formulation and implementation processes. This is because the youth are more likely to learn from their peers than from their adult teachers. Unlike in general SRH where one can tackle the issues directly, ASRH has to be cautiously approached.
There must be a high level of flexibility in the ASRH program for it to work. Here, flexibility refers to the adjustment of the program to suit the adolescent in terms of time and venue. This should be achieved by focusing on those areas where the youth gather together and providing ASRH at their convenience. This can be through counseling centers or youth centers. Additionally, ASRH programs must be attractive to the youth and therefore the incorporation of ICT and entertainment in the program is crucial (UNFPA 23).
Elements for efficiency and manageability in ASRH programs
For a good working ASRH program, there is a need to incorporate several elements in the program that will ensure efficiency and manageability. First, a good program must start with a needs assessment. Secondly, there is a need to introduce a multi-sectoral approach to drum up as much support for the program as possible. Third, programs should be designed in a manner that focuses on female youths since they are the ones who bear the greatest burden of SRH. Lastly, programs should be designed to inculcate a ‘life skills’ approach which is more holistic and far-reaching when it comes to properly guide adolescent youth (UNFPA 24).
Selecting appropriate SRH and disseminating it effectively to adolescent youth
An ASRH planner must choose the right areas in SRH that relate to adolescents. It is also important that once the planner identifies the appropriate aspects, he or she finds a dissemination program that reaches the youth effectively. To do this, the planner needs a selection criterion. The best criteria for selection is that of checking on language, relevance, accuracy, style, and accessibility. Where the five factors are considered, then it is possible to determine what part of SRH is applicable. For ineffective dissemination, the planner should consider convenience, appropriateness, quality, and confidentiality. The promotion of youth-friendly activities is key to successful dissemination (UNFPA 11).
Clinic service delivery guidelines for ASRH
Adolescents are usually very sensitive to matters concerning SRH. Clinic service providers must ensure that they possess the right service delivery skills that will ensure the success of an ASRH program. The criteria should be; first, they should be familiar with ASRH and adolescent development to give the right diagnosis, referral, and/or treatment. Second, they should possess good interpersonal skills that are designed to communicate and provide useful information to the adolescent. Thirdly, providers should maintain a positive outlook, patience, and respect. Next, they should encourage youth networking for ensuring support and referral.
They should also maintain privacy and confidentiality at all times encourage youth participation and monitor and/or supervise adolescent health services. Lastly, the provider should ensure that he promotes a friendly environment that encourages learning and dialogue (UNFPA 12).
Qualities and skills of adolescent service delivery personnel and their importance
These skills include; responsibility, open-mindedness, balance, intelligence, integrity, self-awareness and understanding, tolerance, patience, empathy, and good listening skills. The counselor or educator should ensure that they put the adolescent at ease, avoid being judgmental, and possess strong communication skills. For peer educators, they should ensure that they maintain their integrity and respect among peers, act responsibly and maturely and ensure that they maintain the qualities of trustworthiness, friendliness, gender-sensitivity, self-awareness, responsibility, and empathy. All in all, adolescent service delivery personnel should have good listening, leadership, and interpersonal communication skills.
These skills are very important since they promote ASRH education, encourage effective dissemination of ASRH, provide the youth with a role-model figure, allow adolescents to speak their minds and share their problems, and finally, they ensure that the right target groups receive the most attention.
Role of indicators in ASRH programs
Indicators form a crucial part of the evaluation and monitoring of the ASRH program. Generally, these indicators can be used to measure the effectiveness of a process or they can measure the results of the program. To achieve success, an indicator must be simple, feasible, repeatable, and culturally applicable. Indicators help to ascertain whether a program is working or whether there is some part that is not. It assists in the prescription of corrective measures.
While there is no agreed set of indicators for all ASRH programs, there are several that keep coming up as useful monitors. A good example of this is the data on the percentage of youths that access ASRH- related services and information from particular service providers. This indicator is useful in determining the coverage of the ASRH program. Another indicator is the percentage of youth who know about ASRH in terms of sexuality, contraceptives e.t.c. The indicator is a good measurement for the level of penetration of the ASRH program.
Another key indicator is the data on the number of youth who are sexually active and are using condoms and contraceptives. This is a good indicator for establishing the effectiveness of the awareness program. The fourth key indicator is the number of adolescent youth who express satisfaction with the service delivery at certain ASRH centers. This indicator is a key marker for the quality of service delivery. The last important indicator is the number of facilities offering adolescent-friendly health services. This indicator shows the rollout of the ASRH program and the particular sectors that are not performing.
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ASRH is a key part of community health. Adolescents make up for a very huge part of the population of a country and if their sexual and reproductive health is not put into proper consideration, then a country might lose this integral part of society to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Also, sexual health enables the youth to be responsible and aware that irresponsible sexual behavior could ruin their lives in the event of pregnancy or procuring abortions.
Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA). Advocacy for Girls’ Education. CEDPA, 2005. Web.
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). Advocacy. IPPF, n.d. Web.
Kumah, Opia. Advocacy for Population and Development: Concepts, Strategies and Issues. Addis Ababa, United Nations Population Fund, 1997. Print.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Distance Learning Courses on Population Issues. Turin, UNFPA, 2002. Print.