JIS News

Story Highlights

  • A two-day conference to highlight the achievements of Jamaica's Adolescent Reproductive Health Project (Youth.now), in positively reforming the sexual behaviors of teens, is now underway at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
  • The project, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Futures Groups International through the Ministry of Health, has come to an end five years after its inception.
  • Health Minister, John Junor, keynote speaker at today's opening ceremony, said he hoped the project would be extended, given its impact on the policies of the Health Ministry and reproductive health programmes in Jamaica.

A two-day conference to highlight the achievements of Jamaica’s Adolescent Reproductive Health Project (Youth.now), in positively reforming the sexual behaviors of teens, is now underway at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

The project, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Futures Groups International through the Ministry of Health, has come to an end five years after its inception.

Health Minister, John Junor, keynote speaker at today’s opening ceremony, said he hoped the project would be extended, given its impact on the policies of the Health Ministry and reproductive health programmes in Jamaica.

Minister Junor said the project’s achievements were commendable, as effecting behavior change was not an easy task, especially where adolescents were concerned , and dealing with the identified pattern of early sexual activity among adolescents in Jamaica.

He pointed out that statistics have shown that adolescents formed a significant portion of the figures for persons with Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), with an increasing number of individuals in their twenties developing full blown AIDS.

Minister Junor said the training provided by the project for clinical and health services staff in youth friendly approaches has proved helpful, as there is a recognized change of attitudes towards youth by the providers.

He further encouraged the private and commercial sectors to expand the sexual and reproductive health services they offered.

Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy, Thomas Tighe said the results of the programme were pleasing and noted that preliminary estimates have showed that fertility rates among the 15-19 year-old age group have declined, with a corresponding increase in condom and contraceptive use.

He said the policies and guidelines, which were developed and amended under the programme, “created the enabling environment needed to improve reproductive health”.

Meanwhile Director, Health Promotion and Protection Division of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Deanna Ashley said one important achievement of the project’s policy and advocacy group was the development of guidelines of access to contraceptives for minors.

She pointed out that the project’s emphasis on participation and creative thinking had also contributed to its success and commended USAID for its active involvement with the project.

She added that Youth.now’s emphasis on promoting positive sexual behaviour among adolescents was justified and remained a “priority” as adolescents were the country’s future.

The conference will showcase lessons learnt and best practices among partners and others in the local and international reproductive health community, who have been involved in the project.

It will also highlight adolescent and adolescent development issues (pre-teens, older adolescents, and men), and provide a forum to showcase youth achievements in entertainment, business, agriculture and sports.

Youth.now has been successful in reaching young persons through innovative services, education and outreach programmes in its nine target parishes.

Youth-friendly sites were set up to deliver services such as Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) diagnosis, HIV counselling and referral and contraceptives.

Under the project, service providers, parents, 60 pastors, adult males and young people received training in the delivery of adolescent reproductive health messages.

Additionally, the project partnered with some 200 pharmacists island wide and expanded access to condoms and oral contraceptives for adolescents in approximately 30 communities in three parishes through community based distributors.

Furthermore, a mass media campaign, inclusive of the popular televised ‘YOW’ series was launched, which has had positive impact on a broader audience.

The results revealed a high level of recall for the ads, high ratings for the campaign and positive behavioral changes promoting safe sex practices and abstinence, with some 46 per cent of young viewers saying they were encouraged to use condoms, while 33 per cent said they were encouraged to abstain or delay the activity.