Do more to raise awareness on reproductive health care for adolescents, youths

Lack of understanding of health issues has caused unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion at private health facilities, leading to more risk of infertility in the future, sexually transmitted diseases and social evils, a top health official has said.

Providing young people with knowledge about sexual and reproductive health combined with life skills education is a necessary and urgent issue. Photo: baobinhduong.vn

Many Vietnamese youths have limited knowledge of sexual intercourse or pregnancy, Nguyen Duc Vinh, director of the Department of Maternal and Child Health, Ministry of Health, said at a recent workshop on sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and youth in Hanoi.

The recent national survey on sexual and reproductive health by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Vietnam and the Ministry of Health showed 15 percent adolescents and young people have premarital sex before marriage. This rate doubled compared to 2003 while in 2008 it was 9.5 percent.

Current family planning campaigns fail to address the growing number of young Vietnamese who are sexually active before marriage.  In schools, traditional values make it difficult for teachers to discuss these issues with students. Across the country, a handful of schools are beginning to take a proactive stance in educating adolescent students but parents and teachers remain hesitant to broach the topic.

Notably, only 17.4 percent of adolescents and young people correctly understand when a woman can become pregnant and only 25.9 percent know how to use a condom during sexual intercourse.

In Vietnam’s conservative culture, premarital sex is considered taboo. Women who become pregnant out of wedlock face strong social and familial repercussions. As a result, many unmarried women choose to seek abortions at private clinics. 

Every year Vietnam has about 1,300 abortions reported among women and girls aged 15-19.

Lack of understanding of health issues has caused unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion at private health facilities, leading to more risk of infertility in the future, sexually transmitted diseases and social evils, Vinh said.

To address sexual and reproductive health issues among adolescents and young people, Vietnam has set a target of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies among adolescents/young people by two thirds, he added.

On August 28, Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long issued a decision to promulgate a national action plan on sexual and reproductive health care for adolescents and young people.

To implement the above plan, the ministry is setting up and will soon issue a project on sexual and reproductive health care for adolescents and young people in 2020-2025.

The project will focus on promoting information, education and communication to raise awareness on reproductive health care and provide friendly health services; improving policies and laws to facilitate the implementation of the strategy.

The project will serve as a basis for provinces and cities to build and allocate resources to deal with sexual and reproductive health issues.

According to the UNFPA, Vietnamese adolescents and youth now have many development opportunities but also face challenges such as the impact of the integration process, globalisation, the rapidly changing of socio-economic environment and the negative aspects of the market economy, significantly affecting their lifestyles and psychology.

There are nearly 1.2 billion adolescents (10-19 years old) worldwide, accounting for one-sixth of the world's population. In Vietnam, adolescents make up about a quarter of the population.

Tu Pham