OPINION: Let’s start having safe sex conversations in our communities

By Evelyn Odhiambo

All of us are alive as a consequence of two people having sex; but sex is not just be for procreation. It can also be a sign of affection and love or for pleasure and intimacy.

Sex can have both positive and negative outcomes. Living among us are tiny microorganisms causing diseases that can be sexually transmitted.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that 357million sexually transmitted infections are not recorded annually except for four: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomonas.

This should not blind us to neglecting other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) which cause sever health problems including pelvic infections, infertility, fetal and newborn deaths, and cervical cancer.

STIs aren’t the only health problem among young people: it is estimated that 21 million pregnancies among adolescents aged 15-19 years are unintended.

23 million adolescents’ girls have unmet needs of modern contraceptives and at a risk of unintended pregnancies.

Unsafe sex among Kenyan youth aged 15-19 is common. Exchanging sex for money, goods and services has unfortunately become a way of life for many poor young women.

They are often in no position to negotiate for safer sex due to their partner or non- partner’s dominating status or control over them.

Some have narrated horrific ordeals such as being forced into sex with older men so as to provider money to feed their families.

The other prevailing factor for unprotected sex is in the use of drugs, leading to risky sexual behaviors which in turn accelerates the spread of HIV among young people.

The misconception that educating young people about safe sex promotes promiscuity continues to negatively impact those who are sexually active.

This in turn increases the health burden in the country.

As religious institutions continue to fight comprehensive sexuality education in schools, many have failed to create safe spaces in churches where young people can freely talk about puberty, the emotional changes experience and sex, without fear of stigma

Families are still silent when it comes to talking about safe sex. It is important that we tell young people who are sexually active to have safe sex.  Teaching them about safe sex not only protects from HIV but also STIs, STDs and unintended pregnancies.

It is important to equip them with skills and knowledge to making right choices about their bodies and about sex.

Young people ought to know that, it’s crucial to protect themselves when having sex by either using a condom to avoid STIs and STDs or other contraceptive methods to avoid unintended pregnancies.

The Ministry of Health should play its part by collaborating with the Ministry of Education to ensure effective implementation of the school health policy and the youth friendly service guidelines in protecting young people’s sexual and reproductive life.

Parents shouldn’t shy away from having conversations about safe sex with their children. As basic as it may be, many young people yearn for moments where they can share with their parents how the feel and what they can do to make healthy choices about sex.

Evelyn Odhiambo is the youth coordinator Reproductive Health Network Kenya (RHNK)

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