Presentation Type: Speech
Abstract: Background: Adolescence is an age of challenges and opportunities. Today, the transition to adulthood, without adequate awareness about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information and services, is much more difficult than before. Almost no systematic data have been collected about adolescents’ knowledge of SRH or their risk behaviors. In recent years, Iran has been faced with demographic, social, and cultural changes; these changes have caused early sexual awakening and have come into conflict with traditional customs and values. A number of studies have shown that despite religious and societal disapproval, some Iranian adolescents initiate sex before marrying, and so are at risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Hence, a strong focus on adolescents’ SRH services appears to be necessary. The purpose of this study was to explore the views and experiences of adolescent girls and key adults regarding the necessity of providing SRH information and services for adolescent girls in Iran.
Methods: This qualitative descriptive study was carried out with 318 respondents through semi structured interviews with main health policy makers, state and nongovernmental directors of health programs, clergies, sociologists, health providers, school counselors, also through focus groups with adolescent girls and their mothers in the cities of Mashhad, Tehran, Shahroud, and Qom. The sampling method was purposive and snowballs. All interviews and focus groups were recorded on two digital recorders, with the consent of the participants; then, they were transcribed; As usual in content analysis, data were coded and categorized by using MAXQDA10.
Results: There were six main reasons for the need to provide SRH services for adolescent girls: a lack of adequate knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, easy access to inaccurate information sources, cultural and social changes, increasing risky sexual behaviors among adolescents, religion’s emphasis on sex training of children and adolescents, and the existence of cultural taboos.
Conclusion: The most important finding of this study was that most participants agreed about the necessity of providing SRH information and services for adolescent girls. They especially emphasized the need to inform about the consequences of premarital sex, and to empowering adolescents. Provision of this information and these services should be a priority not only for medical concerns, but also from religious, social, and developmental perspectives. So instead of talking about provision or non-provision of these services, it is important for policy makers to plan and provide SRH services that can be consistent with cultural and religious values for adolescent girls.