A study conducted by the Clinical Trials Coordinator at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), Dr. Gifty Ekua Merdiemah, in three selected public universities in the country has revealed that 93 percent of sexually active adolescents in tertiary institutions ignore contraceptives for sexual activities.
According to the study, even though more than 80 percent of them responded to having some basic knowledge of adolescent sexual reproductive health (ASRH) issues, the majority still prefer to take risks and engage in unprotected sex.
Dr. Merdiemah stressed the need to intensify adolescents’ health education and contraceptive usage campaigns, highlighting these health needs, including sexual reproductive health, sexual intercourse, and contraceptive usage.
The study, which featured 675 respondents from the selected institutions, further found out that more than half of the respondents had sexual partners and were sexually active, yet contraceptive use was not a priority when the act is about to take place.
To give a good balance of representation across the country, the study, which was carried out between 2018 and 2021, used the University for Development Studies (UDS) as a representative of the northern zone, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) for the middle zone, and the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) for the southern zone.
With this backdrop, it recommends that the sexual reproductive health needs of adolescents in public universities needs more attention from university authorities and policy-makers.
Dr. Ama Pokuaa Fenny of the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) presented the findings of the study titled ‘Access To Adolescent Sexual And Reproductive Health Services in Ghana: A Qualitative Study’ at a workshop organised by the African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA) in collaboration with UGMC and ISSER.
Barriers to contraceptive use
The report pointed out that the cost and location of healthcare services were significant barriers for adolescents in getting access to contraceptives and reproductive health facilities.
The students lamented that sometimes, even when they want to use a contraceptive, it is quite far from their reach; hence, the disincentive to move long distances in search of a facility to purchase a condom, for instance.
It is, therefore, imperative for authorities and stakeholders to find ways of getting contraceptives closer to the reach of public tertiary students on campus or hostel facilities.
“There is the need for all stakeholders to work together to provide policies and programmes that address the sexual reproductive health needs of adolescents in public universities,” she stated.
She stressed that for adolescents to have a smooth transition to adulthood, there is a need for all public universities to add well-structured ASRH orientation programmes and adolescent health corners at vantage points with a wide range of SRH services.
The study further urged the Ministry of Education and Ghana Education Service (GES) to also ensure that there were relevant age-specific sex education programmes in all educational institutions, with well-trained teachers and peer educators at the pre-tertiary level.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Wa Central, Abdul-Rashid Hassan Pelpuo, who was a special guest at the event, called for the need to multiply the areas where adolescents could have an easy reach to gain information and have other services that could help them on campuses.