EHS-COVID (261) COVID-19 prevention measures have affected young people’s sexual and reproductive health

17 April, 2021

Dear HIFA and CHIFA

I was interested to learn from one of the authors, Sarah Castle, about this study. She writes:

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'I am delighted to have been co-author of this important study by Rutgers which actively engaged young people in Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

'It used a mobile web survey and Focus Group Discussions to assess the impact of COVID-19 prevention measures on their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Findings indicate that the pandemic curtailed young people’s access to SRH information and services and had a profoundly negative effect on their mental well-being and ability to seek preventive or curative care. Fear of catching COVID-19 in health facilities, a lack of transport, and the closure of services were reported by young people as the main barriers to accessing family planning, STI and HIV testing and treatment during the pandemic.

'With school closures, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) had ceased or gone online which made it difficult for those with little or no internet access to participate and gain accurate SRH information. Girls had difficulty accessing menstrual hygiene products as, in many cases, they had previously received them from school. The data also revealed an increase in early marriage, gender-based violence and unwanted pregnancy. LGBTQI communities and young people living with HIV were subjected to increased stigma and discrimination.

'The recommendations, largely formulated by the young people themselves, underscored the need for rectifying injustice and inequality, particularly among vulnerable groups, as well as ensuring accessible sources of accurate information together with COVID-secure SRH service delivery.

'If you would like to learn more about the study, you can find the FULL REPORT HERE https://www.rutgers.nl/sites/rutgersnl/files/PDF-Onderzoek/Rutgers%20SRH...

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Key findings include:

50% of young people missed reliable information on sex and COVID-19, many used online sources for SRH information. WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were commonly used in many settings to request and acquire information about specific SRH issues and services though many young people were in doubt about the quality of the information.

30% of young women were not able to access the family planning services they needed due to COVID-19. SRHR services, like STI/HIV testing and/or treatment, and abortion services were difficult to access due to COVID-19. Fear of catching COVID-19 in health facilities, lack of transport, and health facilities closures was reported by young people as the main barriers to services during the pandemic.

Join HIFA: www.hifa.org/joinhifa

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I have invited Sarah Castle to join us and invite HIFA members to share your observations about the impact of COVID in your practice or your country.

Best wishes, Neil

Let's build a future where every person has access to reliable healthcare information and is protected from misinformation - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org