Comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services for youth : a health sector priority.
Sexual and reproductive health care have become key priorities both within developing and developed nations. Young people have been identified as particularly vulnerable to negative health outcomes. South Africa is one such example of a country that presently faces significant challenges in addressing the unmet sexual and reproductive health needs of young people. With the enormous burden of reproductive health problems and the accelerating HIV epidemic, the provision of sexual and reproductive health services remains a challenge. Though various studies highlight the importance of comprehensive services targeted at youth, there is a lack of adequate research in evaluating the extent to which health services are addressing the health needs of clients. This study aimed to address this gap by examining a health care facility for students at one of the largest tertiary institutions in KwaZulu-Natal. The core objective was to determine the extent to which the health services are responding to the sexual and reproductive needs of young people by, exploring the experiences and perspectives of service providers and young men and women in relation to comprehensive, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health care. This was assessed using a revised version of the Bruce-Jain quality of care framework. Information for this study was obtained using quantitative and qualitative data collection methods including: an inventory of the facility and services, in-depth interviews with staff and exit interviews with 200 clients aged 18 to 24 years. The findings of the study reveal that logistical constraints hindered effective implementation of comprehensive, youth-friendly services by providers. Providers missed opportunities to provide clients with much needed information and services due to staff shortage, client overload, lack of infrastructure, and poor continuity mechanisms. HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancies were some of the most important health issues among young people visiting the health facility. Very few young men utilised the services. Some of the key findings were that clients continue to experience barriers in interpersonal relations while many expressed the need for more information from providers. In addition, many young women still have an unmet need for contraception. Policy makers need to incorporate the needs of young clients within sexual and reproductive health initiatives. Ideally young people should be involved in the design and implementation process of comprehensive, youth-friendly health initiatives. This would form a platform for addressing the barriers that hinder health service provision.
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