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Perceptions of Sexual Behavior and Knowledge About Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Nigerian Adolescents

Publication Abstract

Temin, M., F. Okonofua, F. Omorodion, P. Coplan, Elisha Renne, H. Heggenhougen, and J. Kaufman. 1999. "Perceptions of Sexual Behavior and Knowledge About Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Nigerian Adolescents." International Family Planning Perspectives, 25(4): 186-190, 195.

Context: The level of sexual activity and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are high among Nigerian adolescents, but use of reproductive health services is low. Information about their attitudes and experiences is needed for the design of youth-friendly programs. Methods: Twenty-four single-sex focus group discussions were conducted among young people aged 15-20 attending secondary schools in Benin City. The discussions explored the adolescents' perceptions of sexual behavior among their peers, their knowledge of STDs and their preferred means of preventing and treating STDs. Results: The participants perceived that sexual activity is common among their peers. They noted that although physical attraction is the main reason for romantic relationships (which might include sex), the desire for material or financial gain is the primary motivation for sexual relationships. The young people had some knowledge about STDs, especially HIV and AIDS, but many believed infections were inevitable. When they had an STD, most went to traditional healers; they were unlikely to seek treatment from doctors because of high cost, slow service, negative provider attitudes toward young people and a perceived lack of confidentiality. The participants considered media campaigns as the best way to educate young people about STDs and condom use. Conclusions: Using media campaigns to educate adolescents about risky behavior and condom use, educating parents about reproductive health and communication with adolescents, training medical providers in low-cost diagnosis and treatment techniques, and establishing youth-friendly services that emphasize sensitivity and confidentiality would be helpful in reducing high-risk sexual behavior and controlling the spread of STDs (including HIV and AIDS) among young people in Nigeria.

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