Sexuality education and access to Youth Friendly Services – a way to sexual and reproductive health

Sexuality education and access to Youth Friendly Services – a way

to sexual and reproductive health

C Rogala

RFSU, RFSU Clinic, Stockholm, Sweden

In Sweden, sexuality education became compulsory in schools 50 years ago (1955).

The right to sexuality education enables young people to make informed decisions

about their reproductive life. Education and knowledge form one part of

prevention, but another equally important part is access to services. Youth

Friendly Services have been started all over Sweden. Every clinic is different

and is adapted to the prevailing needs of its surrounding community. Today,

there are more than 200 youth clinics in Sweden, many of which have facilities

of their own (especially in urban areas).

No single approach to adolescent

sexuality and its consequences is appropriate for all teenagers of all ages, in

all circumstances, and in every community. Nevertheless, it is clear that all

adolescents are in need of certain interventions if they are to avoid the

negative consequences of sexuality.

Counsellors in Youth Friendly Services must

gain the confidence of young people if their work is to be successful. As well

as an understanding of adolescent psychology and the difficulties young people

go through, counsellors must have knowledge of medical matters.

The initial

purpose of Youth Friendly Services was to prevent teenage pregnancies and

abortions by providing information about sexuality and contraception. But it

soon became clear that adolescents had other needs. Even in the early 1980s,

before the AIDS epidemic, prevention strategies to avoid the spread of STDs were

embarked upon.

Today, contraceptive/ STD counselling and services are closely

linked. Girls are still the main visitors to Youth Friendly Services, but boys

are attending in ever greater numbers, especially since special clinical hours

with male staff have been arranged. Work in the latter arena has been documented

in the pamphlet “Sexual and reproductive health for young men – some

clinical experiences from Sweden”. 

Youth clinics have a good reputation

among young people in Sweden. People working in youth clinics are bound by

confidentiality rules, which undoubtedly contribute to young people daring to go

there. As a general rule, it can be said that Youth Friendly Services have two

sides: individual consultation in privacy, examination and treatment; and

various more public activities, such as lectures and group discussions. Some of

the purposes of outward-directed work are to give young people still at school

further education in the fields of sexuality and interpersonal relationships,

and to make youth clinics more visible so that young people know where to turn

when the need arises. It is clear that most young women and men become sexually

active during their adolescence. Society has to face that fact, and there will

be unwanted pregnancies even in countries where contraceptives are easily

available. If we want to save young women from the consequences of unsafe,

possibly fatal, abortions, we need to make them safe and affordable. Openness

and safety increase opportunities for enjoyment and a rich sexual life.


existence of Sexuality education and Youth Friendly Services reflects society’s

acknowledgement of its responsibility to give information and services to young

people in the sexuality arena. Sexual and reproductive rights must cover the

adolescent as well as the grown-up. Sexuality education and Youth Friendly

Services can be seen as a first step towards sexual health.

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