Comprehensive sexuality education

Effective comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) enables young people to adopt positive sexual behaviours. These include delaying the age of sexual debut, reducing the frequency of sex and number of sexual partners, and increasing use of contraception, especially condoms.

The recent decline in HIV of more than 25 per cent in high burden African countries has been attributed to young people adopting protective behaviours as well as investments in programmes for young people.

Effective comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) enables young people to adopt positive sexual behaviours. These include delaying the age of sexual debut, reducing the frequency of sex and number of sexual partners, and increasing use of contraception, especially condoms.

The recent decline in HIV of more than 25 per cent in high burden African countries has been attributed to young people adopting protective behaviours as well as investments in programmes for young people.

In the East and Southern Africa region, large numbers of adolescents attend primary school but do not complete it, nor progress to high school. In addition, many drop out due to unwanted pregnancies.

Due to the goal of Universal Primary Education (UPE), many older adolescents are enrolling in primary education. However, in countries where age-appropriate CSE is not rolled out in the first years of primary education, many drop out before benefiting from the protective effects of CSE.

The ESA Commitment
 

UNFPA in East and Southern Africa is planning to implement an initiative called the ESA Commitment, which has been endorsed by ministers of health and education from 20 ESA countries, to deliver CSE and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for young people.

The goals of the ESA Commitment are as follows:

  • Scale up access to and quality of comprehensive sexuality education. Schools and other education institutions must deliver good quality sexuality education that is culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and informed by evidence.
     
  • Increase access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. CSE must be linked to accessible, affordable and effective health services and commodities for young people. This includes condoms, contraceptives, HIV counselling and testing, HIV/STI treatment, post-abortion care, safe delivery, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and other related services.
     
  • Eliminate All HIV infections. HIV remains a problem, with 430,000 new infections per year among young people aged 15-24; with young women still more heavily affected and with an increase of 50 per cent in deaths among adolescents living with HIV globally.
     
  • Reduce early and unintended pregnancies. Adolescent pregnancy often brings detrimental social and economic consequences for a girl, her family and broader community, especially if it leads to a girl dropping out of school. The health risk for adolescents is also greater, with higher risks of birth complications and maternal mortality.
     
  • Eliminate gender-based violence and child marriage. It is critical for countries in the region to make gender and rights a non-negotiable component of any response to the needs of adolescents and young people, and to enforce existing zero-tolerance policies and laws effectively. In addition, countries must identify child marriage hotspots and use the laws and existing policies to protect the rights of girls and young women.