Speaking in Nakuru during deliberations between officials of NACC, National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and County staff led by Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Ms Siparo observed that early sexual activity responsible for teenage pregnancies also increased the period young person
Chairperson to the National Aids Control Council (NACC) Board Ms Angeline Yiamiton Siparo, said the trend was linked to increased teenage pregnancies, as statistics from the Kenya Democratic and Health Survey (KDHS), indicated that one in every five girls aged between 15 and 19 years, is either pregnant or already a mother.
Speaking in Nakuru during deliberations between officials of NACC, National Council for Population and Development (NCPD) and County staff led by Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Ms Siparo observed that early sexual activity responsible for teenage pregnancies also increased the period young persons are exposed to the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
While raising concerns over the increasing number of young people in Kenya who are HIV positive, Ms Siparo noted that pregnancy among teens aged 15-19 stands at about 18.1 percent — an insignificant change since 1993, when it was estimated at 20.5 percent.
Present during the meeting were County Executive Committee (CEC) Member for Health, Dr Zachary Gichuki, NCPD Director-General, Dr Mohammed Sheikh and NACC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ruth Laibon Masha.
Ms Siparo further pointed out that the number of suicides among the 15-24 age group had risen sharply, adding that underlying factors that contribute to the various crises facing teenagers such as parental neglect, inappropriate forms of recreation, low self-esteem, use of alcohol and substance abuse, need to be urgently addressed.
“Majority of young girls and women don’t have the ability to negotiate for safer sex. Most of them are usually subjected to sexual and Gender-Based Violence,” Siparo said.
She observed that sometimes defilement cases were not expeditiously investigated by police due to the uncooperative nature of victims, leading to their dismissal in court due to lack of evidence.
Ms Siparo urged parents not to negotiate with the culprits of defilement and instead report them to the police.
“The problem is that they feel like they are shaming the community, so they end up hiding these cases. They should not compromise a child’s rights. Let them come out and help us to ensure justice is served. Local people make it easier for law enforcement agencies, by reporting the incidents before the evidence is erased,” Siparo said.
Dr Masha said early pregnancies and growing HIV prevalence among teenagers, was being fanned partly by cultural practices such as early marriages, polygamy, low literacy levels, especially among women and low access to contraceptives.
The NACC Chief Executive Officer called for a sustained campaign against harmful cultural practices, which fanned teen pregnancies and advocated improved access to modern contraceptives.
She stated that cross-generational relationships, where teenage girls have limited say, transactional sexual relationships, unequal gender power relations, poverty, lack of parental counselling and guidance are also to blame.
“Young persons perceive themselves as having very low chances of being infected with sexually transmitted infections. Majority of them change their sex partner very frequently. Since they are not married, they don’t feel compelled to be faithful. One risk for young people is having concurrent multiple partners. It means that they are exposing themselves more,” warned the NACC Chief Executive.
According to Dr Sheikh, the rapid erosion of moral and social skills among the affected age group, is to blame for the increased HIV prevalence, especially in the cities where young women are dating older men for financial gain.
He called on parents to be clear on sexual values and attitudes, talk with their children early and often about sexuality, to be involved in their children’s lives more, thus be able to monitor most of their activities.
The NCPD Director-General, indicated that, while measures to curb teenage pregnancies have largely focused on females, boys and men should not only be held responsible for their sexual behaviour, but also targeted with interventions.
“Involving boys and men make programming for girls more effective, by addressing both sides of the teen pregnancy equation. We need community-based programmes, led by men to educate adolescent boys on responsible manhood and encourage them to abstain from sex and to use contraception, if they are sexually active,” Dr Sheikh added.
Governor Kinyanjui, urged chiefs and village elders, not to settle defilement cases through ‘Kangaroo’ courts, as the process compromised justice to the disadvantage of the affected girls.
He decried incidents where local community members, whose daughters have been defiled, are coerced into an out of court settlement instead of letting the law take its course.
“These ‘courts’ initiated at village level, have played a role in protecting sex pests, as many parents were opting for out-of-court settlements, hence denying their children justice.
There are a number of defilement cases going on unreported due to kangaroo courts initiated by village elders at a fee, with the knowledge of some law enforcers, who derail justice for the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) victims in some parts of this county,” Kinyanjui regretted.
He said that most of the girls are impregnated by people well known to them and asked law enforcement agencies to deal harshly with perpetrators.