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Protecting the next generation in Malawi: new evidence on adolescent sexual and reproductive health needs

Guttmacher Institute
Publication Date
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Education
  • Medicine
  • Political Science


In recent decades, the AIDS epidemic has added a deadly new dimension to Malawi’s already numerous and complex public health challenges. The spread of HIV/AIDS is inextricably linked to other sexual and reproductive health problems, as the behaviors that expose people to HIV are the same behaviors that put them at risk for other STIs and unintended pregnancy. The youth of Malawi bear the brunt of these intersecting problems. Unintended pregnancy among adolescent women can lead to social stigmatization, loss of educational opportunities and physical harm, either from attempting an unsafe abortion or from giving birth before reaching physical maturity. Youth are also at high risk for STIs, including HIV, since many do not have the information they need to avoid unsafe behaviors, the willingness to risk embarrassment to obtain contraceptives or the knowledge to identify STI symptoms. Yet there is cause for optimism: Adolescents want to learn more about sexual and reproductive health matters, and many have already adopted protective sexual behaviors. New research findings on 12–19-year-olds, presented in this report, make it possible to fill many gaps in our understanding of adolescents’ lives and identify avenues for government agencies and other key stakeholders to help youth protect their health.

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