July 21, 2016

Make full SRHR for young women a priority

Written by Heather Boonstra, Director of Public Policy, Guttmacher Institute

This post originally appeared on Sex Rights Africa.

Young women in Sub-Saharan Africa need the full range of sexual and reproductive health care, writes Heather Boonstra, Director of Public Policy, Guttmacher Institute.

As thousands of young people from around the world join advocates, scientists, policymakers, journalists and health care providers at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban this week, the fact that HIV disproportionately affects adolescent and young women is sure to be frequently cited. Almost half of all new HIV infections among women in Sub-Saharan Africa occur among those aged 15–24 years. Like young people everywhere, adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa need honest, complete information about sexual health and access to confidential sexual and reproductive health care services to better protect themselves.


Evidence sheds light on young women’s needs for sexual and reproductive health information and services in developing regions around the globe and in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically.

In developing regions worldwide:

  • Adolescent women aged 15–19 will have an estimated 21 million pregnancies in 2016, of which about 12 million will result in a birth.
  • An estimated 17,000 young women die from complications of pregnancy or childbirth each year.

In Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • Among adolescent women aged 15–19, 11.3 million are sexually active and do not want a child for at least two years. About a third of these women (3.6 million) are using a modern contraceptive method to avoid unintended pregnancy, but the other 7.7 million currently have an unmet need for modern contraception.
  • Nearly half of pregnancies among women aged 15–19 are unintended, and almost half of these end in abortion. Most of these abortions occur in countries where the procedure is illegal and performed under clandestine and often unsafe conditions.
  • If all adolescent women in the region who need modern contraceptives were to use them, unintended pregnancies would drop by 2.7 million per year, resulting in 1.1 million fewer unplanned births, as well as 1.3 million fewer abortions, almost all of which would have been unsafe.


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