Major Infectious Diseases
Ready to scale
Young people living in sub-Saharan Africa have unmet sexual and reproductive health needs. This has resulted in an increase in HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies among the youth. Main barriers to care and low utilization of sexual services include judgment and stigma, lack of privacy and anonymity, inconvenient days and hours, long queues and service disintegration. In Malawi, it is estimated that more than half of young women have a first child during their adolescent years and 10% of these young women are HIV infected by the age of 24 years. A model of services that address these barriers and facilitates greater uptake of sexual and reproductive support services and information is urgently needed.
Twambilile Phanga is a Malawian citizen, a researcher, and an advocate who is passionate about projects that promote rights, education and health of adolescents. She currently works as a senior research officer at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project on adolescent focused projects. The Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) project in Malawi is an initiative supported by the UNC. In 2016, UNC project conducted the Girl Power study to assess whether a model of youth-friendly health services implemented in government clinics could improve service uptake in this population. The study compared three clinics that offered a model of YFHS to one that did not. Participants were followed for one year to monitor uptake and adherence to services. The results were 97% HIV testing, 82% condoms, and 54% contraception uptake, compared to the low numbers from the clinic that did not offer the services. The YFHS model proved to be effective in increasing uptake and adherence to sexual and reproductive health support and services. The programme provides services from a young person’s perspective and addresses known barriers to care in youth dedicated spaces, separate from adults. Providers are trained in the YFHS approach to improve attitudes and peer educators are used to help young clients navigate health services as well as provide free services.