|Press Release WHO/9
5 February 1999
|HELP YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES IN THEIR SEXUAL AND
REPRODUCTIVE LIVES, WHO CHIEF SAYS
The Hague Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health is a major challenge, World Health Organization Director General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland said at a ministerial conference on population issues here today.
"Think of the costs of failing to ensure that young people - our common future - have the knowledge, skills and services they need to help them make healthy choices in their sexual and reproductive lives," Dr Brundtland said during a panel discussion on reproductive health.
Ministers from more than 180 nations have gathered at The Hague to evaluate the progress made in the five years since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo.
"Young people need adult assistance to deal with the thoughts, feelings and experiences that accompany physical maturity," Dr Brundtland said. "By providing this help, we are not encouraging irresponsible lifestyles. Evidence from around the world has clearly shown that providing information and building skills on human sexuality and human relationships helps avert health problems, and creates more mature and responsible attitudes."
Acknowledging that there often is a deep-seated discomfort in dealing with adolescent sexuality, Dr Brundtland said that such attitudes must change. Adolescents in developed and developing countries alike are vulnerable because of a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. Every year, one in 20 adolescents contracts a sexually transmitted disease and one in four unsafe abortions occurs in adolescence. We have an ethical duty to do what is necessary to prevent this suffering and devastation, Dr Brundtland said.
"We must never forget the right to equality and non-discrimination on grounds such as sex, marital status, race, age and class," she warned. "People have a right to privacy and to freedom from sexual violence and coercion. Defining reproductive ill health as not only a health issue but as a matter of social justice provides a legal and political basis for governments to act."
Dr Brundtland said that the failure to openly address the problems of adolescent sexuality and reproductive health and the failure to develop effective, equitable public health systems are causing great suffering throughout the world:
For further information, journalists can contact Press Officer Jon Lidén, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 3982 Fax (41 22) 791 4858 E-mail:email@example.com
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/