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Regional News Fri, 27 Feb 2004

Youth Counselling Centres for adolescent reproductive health set up

Kumasi, Feb 26, GNA-The African Youth Alliance (AYA), in collaboration with three different health service providers, have established 66 Youth Friendly Centres to counsel the youth and provide services on responsible adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

Dr Robert Mensah, Country Coordinator of the AYA, said the organisation established 50 of such facilities jointly with Ghana Health Service (GHS), 10 with the Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) and six with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana (PPAG).

The Youth Friendly Service Centres are in designated health facilities in the Greater Accra, Central and Ashanti Regions.

Speaking at a two-day review workshop on the AYA/CHAG Window of Hope Youth Programme, Dr Mensah said education and dialogue were still needed to instil in the youth the need to be responsible in their sex life. The Window of Hope Youth Programme is a three-year joint AYA/CHAG Project, with focus on youth counselling, sexually transmitted infections diagnosis, post abortion and other family planning services for the youth in the age bracket of 10 to 24.

Pathfinder International, one of the implementing partners of AYA activities is funding the programme.

Dr Mensah said so far the focus of AYA's message was on abstinence or secondary abstinence. He, however, advised those who could not abstain to practice safe sex.

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Dr Mensah said identifying symbols would soon be developed, as in the case of family planning facilities, to identify Youth Friendly Service Centres, and encouraged personnel of the facilities to devise innovative ways to make known the centres and services they offered. Mr Charles Adjei Acquah, National Coordinator in charge of the Window of Hope Project, said CHAG provided about 40 per cent of the health service delivery in the country.

He said the CHAG was made of 16 churches and Christian organisations, including the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana, the Pentecostal Council of Ghana and the Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which in all run 175 health institutions in the country.

Mr Fred Nelson Adom, Research and Evaluation Officer of the PPAG, who presented a paper on the findings of mystery client study on CHAG facilities in the Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central Regions, said although patronage of the facilities by young people was encouraging, lack of coordination was detected among service providers. He said the study indicated that most of the clients were not counselled on HIV/AIDS, and there was also non-availability of in-house laboratory service.

It also found that there were inadequate directional signs to the facilities.

Service providers were not insisting on joint treatment of STI clients, and some service providers had entrenched positions and biases on offering reproductive health care facilities to young people and also denied them services on account of their religious beliefs.

The study recommended among other things, the branding of facilities as "Youth Friendly" Service Providers, encouragement of HIV/AIDS counselling particularly to first time users, joint treatment of STI clients and their partners as well as re-orientation of staff in youth friendliness.

Source: GNA
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