One of the major challenges that an International Programme on Sexuality is likely to encounter is the assessment of what are considered risky sexual behaviors when it comes to young people. This is mainly because of the biases, whether intentional or unintentional that come into play when attempting to identify and measure the levels of some of these behaviors.
One of the main reasons for this biases is the fact that sexual behavior is still a taboo topic in many parts of the world therefore being a very sensitive and difficult topic to openly discuss with young people. Most youth simply find it uncomfortable discussing with adults about their sexuality because they perceive adults as too judgmental. It’s scenarios like these that are making it much more difficult to address the many risky sexual behaviors of young people.
Let’s take a look at some of the risk factors associated with unhealthy sexual behavior among young people.
Some forms of mental illness
Studies have revealed that young people who suffer from mental illness engage in more risky sexual behavior in comparison to those who are not mentally ill. Apparently, some forms of mental illness have been known to significantly contribute to risky sexual behavior among young people by increasing or bringing out promiscuous sexual behavior. In addition to this, most of them will not have the frame of mind to use any form of contraception and this has led to high pregnancy and STIs among them. Some of these mental illnesses include dependent, antisocial, and paranoid personality disorders. It’s also worth noting that females are more affected by this exposure to risky sexual behaviors than males.
Depression is a risk factor
A number of studies conducted on young people have revealed that depression has a direct contribution to their risky sexual behavior. For instance, it’s reported that young males who are depressed will rarely use a condom when engaging in sex whereas when it comes to girls, cases of STIs have been reported in majority of girls who had a history of depression. The explanation for this is the fact that in most cases, depression brings with it hopelessness, lowered self-esteem, self-destructive tendencies, among other negative feelings which will essentially make them care less about protecting themselves thus increasing their exposure to risky sexual behavior.
Alcohol and substance abuse
Alcohol and substance abuse has been known to contribute to both involuntary and voluntary risky sexual behavior among young people. In many cases, youth who frequently engage in alcohol and substance abuse will often get themselves into compromising situations and it’s more likely than not that they will end up engaging in risky sexual behavior. This could be engaging in unprotected sex or becoming victims of sexual abuse. In some cases, young people especially those addicted to drugs have been known to trade sex for drugs or for money to buy drugs.
For the success of any International Programme on Sexuality, it will be important to seek to find out how these risk factors affect young people across different cultural contexts so that contextualized programs can be designed to help mitigate these risk factors.
We invite you to share with us your experiences on youth and sexuality. Let’s join hands to transform the lives of our youth.