Sex & Health: how to get young men involved?

News

Most programmes focusing on sexual reproductive health & rights focus on girls. Young men, aged 15 – 24, are often absent in sexual reproductive health programmes. Health workers struggle to find the right way of approaching this group. As a result: information and advice often end up being provided in a ‘moralising’ way. However, making informed choices about sexual health is a responsibility and right for both women and man, boys and girls. Particularly with regards to HIV and other STI’s.

Kenya and Bangladesh

KIT has teamed up with national researchers and partners to investigate the effectiveness of a new Motivational Intervention (MI+) approach. The project aims to substantially change the way in which health professionals and peer educators engage with young males; and to elicit and strengthen these young males’ motivation for change towards safer sexual behaviour. The intervention is implemented by a consortium led by KIT with BSWS Bangladesh, AMREF Kenya, and the GGD Amsterdam.

In order to understand whether this innovative approach works, a mixed methods quasi-experimental study is undertaken by KIT and national researchers whereby the situation “before” and “after” the introduction of the approach is being compared. The before study, recently carried out in Kenya among 1,120 young males between 15 – 24 years showed some interesting data.

Some results

The large majority of young men become sexually active at an earlier age (15 – 16 years) than is the average in Kenya (17,6 years). Of those being sexual active, about half had two or more sexual, mainly female, partners. Relatively few buy sex from sex workers (5%). The risk perception on HIV among them varies considerably, although it is promising that uptake of HIV Testing and Counselling is high amongst this group.
Knowledge of Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs) related symptoms is relatively low. The majority of young men also have misconceptions on how to avoid STIs, and believe that if they wash their genitalia with urine or Dettol they can avoid STIs. This, while their use of STI services is problematic, as they tend to come for treatment at a late stage. Only one in five said to always use a condom.

Adapting the program to fit local needs

The results of the before study confirms the need to address young males in the proposed intervention. KIT and partners are dedicated to thoroughly assess the potential effect of the MI+ program. To monitor the program the before and after evaluations are important to understand whether this innovative approach works. Additionally, KIT and partners have committed themselves to design and change this innovative program when experiences throughout the project call for modification. The results of the before study in Bangladesh are expected soon.

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