Unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection among young women in rural Kenya
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Early sexual debut and premarital sex are increasingly common features of female adolescence in Kenya—putting girls at the risk of unwanted pregnancy and infection by sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Levels of knowledge concerning the protective value of condoms and other contraceptives are high, but unprotected sex is still common. Against this background, this paper examines the strategies used by young women to deal with these risks. Qualitative data were obtained from eight focus group discussions conducted with school attending girls aged between 15 and 19 years in Makueni District of Eastern Kenya. Findings suggest that, despite knowledge of the protective value of condoms and other contraceptives, the use of these methods by girls is hampered by inability to access them, the fear of the side effects of contraceptives, and the desire by girls to remain faithful to their religious calling. Most girls also resort to the use of traditional methods such whose potency and efficacy is unproven. These findings suggest the need to make condoms more easily accessible to girls in rural areas, and also for education in the proper use of ‘natural’ family planning methods. Young women may also benefit from training in how to be more assertive in sexual negotiations.