Today is World Contraception Day

London, 27th September 2011: Today is World Contraception Day. The annual worldwide campaign centres around a vision for a world where every pregnancy is wanted.

Launched in 2007, World Contraception Day’s mission is to improve awareness of contraception to enable young people to make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health

Kenya has featured in this year’s annual multi-national survey, exploring young people’s attitudes to sex and contraception.

The survey, entitled, Clueless or Clued Up: Your Right to be informed about contraception,’ has shown alarmingly high levels of unprotected sex amongst young people as well as poor knowledge of effective contraceptive options.

The third annual multi-national survey, exploring young people‟s attitudes to sex and contraception, has been launched today to mark World Contraception Day (WCD) 2011, which takes place every year on 26th September.

The survey, entitled „Clueless or Clued Up: Your Right to be informed about contraception,’ has shown alarmingly high levels of unprotected sex amongst young people as well as poor knowledge of effective contraceptive options.

Furthermore, respondents are avoiding asking healthcare professionals about contraception through embarrassment and many cannot rely on their schools to provide comprehensive sex education

The survey involved 26 countries and 5,426 young people in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the USA as well as 600 people in Egypt, Kenya and Uganda and is supported by the WCD Youth Task Force and a coalition of 11 international organizations with an interest in sexual health.

The results are significant as the level of unplanned pregnancies is a major global concern, particularly amongst young people. Worldwide, approximately 41% of the 208 million pregnancies which occur each year are unintended. In addition to this, one in 20 adolescent girls gets a bacterial infection through sexual contact every year and the age at which infections are acquired is becoming younger and younger.

Jennifer Woodside of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, an NGO partner of WCD, said, “What the results show is that too many young people either lack good knowledge about sexual health, do not feel empowered enough to ask for contraception or have not learned the skills to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies or STIs.

What young people are telling us is that they are not receiving enough sex education or the wrong type of information about sex and sexuality. It should not come as a surprise then that the result is many young people having unprotected sex and that harmful myths continue to flourish in place of accurate information.

How can young people make decisions that are right for them and protect them from unwanted pregnancy and STIs, if we do not empower them and enable them to acquire the skills they need to make those choices?”

Statistics show that more than 40% of young people in Australia, Chile, Colombia, Great Britain, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, Singapore, Sweden and Turkey have already had unprotected sex with a new partner – this figure rises to over 50% in China, Estonia, Kenya , Korea, Norway and Thailand.

As many as 62% of young Thais have had sex without contraception with a new partner. The problem also seems to be getting worse in some countries with considerable increases since 2009 seen in France (111% – from 19% to 40%), the USA (39% – from 38% to 53%) and Great Britain (19% – from 36% to 43%).

When asked why they had had unprotected sex with a new partner, 15% of respondents across Asia Pacific and 14% in Europe said they did not like contraception and 16% in Asia Pacific said their partner preferred not to use it.

In Italy the number of people saying they do not like contraception has increased from 3% to 24% since 2010.5 As many as 23% of young people in Uganda and 13% in Slovenia said they had had sex without contraception with a new partner because they did not want to appear „uncool‟.

Across Asia Pacific the main reason respondents could not get contraception when they needed it was because they were too embarrassed to ask a healthcare professional (42%). 28% of young Europeans, 27% of young Latin Americans and 24% of young people from the USA, who could not access contraception when they needed it, also cited this as a problem

In Europe, Latin America and the USA around half of respondents said they felt very well informed about contraceptive options (46%, 53% and 53% respectively) – this figure was considerably lower in the African countries and Asia Pacific where only a quarter of people felt this way (27% and 25% respectively).

Alarmingly, around half of young men and women in Kenya (49%), Uganda (47%), China (51%) and India (50%) said they were not very familiar with the different contraceptive options available to them.

Many respondents who reported that they had experienced problems obtaining contraception when they needed it said that this was because they did not know which method to look for (Latin America 23%, Asia Pacific 22%) or because they did not know where to get it from (France 36%, Sweden 25% and Australia 24%).

In addition to this, approximately half of the young people surveyed in some African and European countries believe that the „withdrawal method‟ is an effective method of contraception when in fact it is highly unreliable (Uganda 52%, Russia 50% and Turkey 52%).

In Egypt 36% of men and women believe that having a bath or a shower after sex would prevent a pregnancy and in Singapore 19% believe this is effective (a 137% increase on 2010 when just 8% believed in this method).

Having sex during menstruation is considered an effective form of contraception by more than a quarter of young people in Thailand and India (28% and 26% respectively).

According to the survey, there are many countries where sex education is not provided. Overall in Europe around half of respondents receive sex education (55%) compared to three quarters in Latin America (78%), Asia Pacific (76%) and the USA (74%) and in some European countries, considerably less than half were taught about sex in school (Latvia 34%, Slovenia 35%, Turkey 21%).

In Egypt only 12% of young people received any sex education in school. Even in areas where young people are more likely to receive sex education, there are reports of teachers providing information about contraception that the respondents later realised was inaccurate or untrue (Colombia 29%, Estonia 18%, Korea 16%, Great Britain 14% and Mexico 14%) or of the environment at school not being conducive to asking questions about sexuality and intimacy (Asia Pacific 22%, Europe 20%, Latin America 14%).

With the exception of Kenya, Uganda and Egypt, in all regions websites and blogs are the preferred source of information on contraception. Within Europe, with the exception of France and Italy, over half of young people use the internet to get information about contraceptive options.

Denise Keller, TV presenter and producer from Singapore and member of the WCD Youth Task Force, said:

No matter where you are in the world, barriers exist which prevent teenagers from receiving trustworthy information about sex and contraception, which is probably why myths and misconceptions remain so widespread even today. When young people have access to contraceptive information and services, they can make choices that affect every aspect of their lives which is why it’s so important that accurate and unbiased information is easily available for young people to obtain – either online or via educational materials they can take home or carry around with them.”

World Contraception Day 2011, under the motto „Live Your Life, Know your rights. Learn about contraception,‟ focuses on the right of young people to access accurate and unbiased information about contraception in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or STI. WCD has joined forces with MTV around the world this year to raise awareness of sexual health issues

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