Report: Inequality, poverty push up pregnancies, HIV/Aids in Homa Bay
Gender inequality, difficulties in accessing services and poverty are fuelling high rates of unintended pregnancies and HIV/Aids infections in Homa Bay county, Western Kenya, a new report shows.
The report commissioned by Homa Bay County government and conducted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Liverpool VCT Health, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), revealed that a third of adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 years in the county fall pregnant with their first child.
According to the researchers the number is almost twice the national average of 18 per cent.
The report, titled Unintended Pregnancies and HIV Amongst Adolescents and Young People: A Situation Analysis of Homa Bay, Kenya, shows youth aged between 15 and 24 years contribute 13 per cent of the HIV/Aids infection cases among people aged 15 to 49 in the county.
These numbers according to Maniza Zaman, the Unicef Representative to Kenya have gone up enormously in the last eight months during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zaman said there is need for urgent steps to make sure children and young people receive the information and support they need to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and HIV.
“This is particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic, when safety nets like families and schools have been affected,” she said during a zoom launch of the report.
Adolescent girls were identified as particularly vulnerable. The study found them to often have little say in relationships and the use of condoms.
“At the same time, they face pressure from peers or wider society to get pregnant or marry early, or circumstances force them into transactional sex – for example to buy fish to feed their families and also to buy other basics such as sanitary pads,” Dr Lilian Otiso, the LVCT boss and Dr Fiona Samuels, Senior Research Fellow at ODI, the Principal Investigators noted.
Many girls interviewed told researchers they lacked access to, or awareness of, relevant HIV, sexual and reproductive health services.
The study found that adolescent girls are at risk of sexual violence thus increasing their risk of HIV and unintended pregnancy with the report indicating that cases of defilement of under-age girls have increased in Homa Bay, particularly around school holidays.