• Young people avoid seeking services related to sexual health when they find their superiors (adults) at the facilities.
• Kenya has between 160 and 200 youth-friendly centres. Policy requires services in these centres to be affordable, accessible, acceptable.
Provision of youth-friendly services is a requirement by the Ministry of Health.
These are services meant to protect the reproductive health of young people, ensuring they are free from sexually transmitted infections including HIV, educating them on unintended pregnancy and sexual health.
Currently, Kenya has between 160 and 200 youth-friendly centres. The policy requires that services in these centres are made affordable, accessible, acceptable and as the name suggests, friendly.
Major challenges in the provision of youth-friendly services are limited awareness among the youth on the location of such services, affordability and involvement of gatekeepers.
Community mobilisation has not done much to inform the youth about the availability of youth-friendly services. There is a need, therefore, that young people are informed on where they can access youth-friendly services, the nature of the services, working hours and what is expected when visiting such health centres.
A combined approach will increase the demand for youth-friendly services and this begins with what young people want. Setting some pool tables, health movies and talent realisation competition among other activities young people would like within the health facilities are effective approach in mobilising young people to seek the services in health facilities.
This is because these are some of the activities youths are engaged in their free time. In addition, youth-friendly services can be linked to educational programmes in schools. The stigma associated with being treated alongside their seniors – including parents – make young people find difficulty in seeking treatment for pregnancy and sexually related infections.
Involvement of parents, community leaders and policy makers is another way to increase uptake of youth-friendly services, As cultural practices have always left out the role of elders in protecting the sexual health of young people, involving adults in community awareness relating to the provision of youth-friendly services will increase health-seeking behaviours among young people.
Affordability plays an important role in creating demand for youth-friendly services. Therefore, we should adopt social marketing that includes offering the services at low cost.
Naya Kenya, Nairobi