Addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa is vital, given the devastating impact of AIDS, the high rates of unintended pregnancy and the risk that those pregnancies may lead to unsafe abortions. Protecting the health of adolescents is clearly important for the adolescents themselves. In addition, it is a critical public health priority. Increased investment in adolescent sexual and reproductive health can contribute to wider development goals, because it enables adolescents to become healthy, productive adults.
Comprehensive sex education is effective in improving knowledge and reducing sexual risk behaviors, and it does not increase sexual activity. At best, only about half of 15–19-year-olds across the four countries have received any sex education at school. Although strengthening sex education programs can be difficult in places where resources and infrastructure are limited, key aspects of effective programs have been identified and can be applied across different settings. Important recommendations include:
1. Adopt curricula that provide comprehensive, accurate sexual and reproductive health information. Programs should avoid using an exclusive “abstinence-until-marriage”approach, as recent evaluations show that this approach alone does not lead to protective behaviors.
2. Support teacher training. To effectively expand coverage of sex education, it is vital that teachers receive adequate training in sex education topics and in participatory learning methods.
3.Target very young adolescents. Many adolescents leave school before reaching the grade levels at which sex education begins. Programs that start before the end of primary school increase the opportunity to reach youth before they leave school and before they begin sexual activity.
4.Help adolescents stay in school. Even if they do not receive sex education, young people who stay in school are less likely than their peers to have sex.