January 05, 2015

Laos: condoms, teenage pregnancies and sex talk on youth agenda

By: Carla Kweifio-Okai in Vientiane, The Guardian (UK), December 23 2014

Dr. Arsone Vongruily stands at the entrance of the youth health clinic in Laos’s capital, Vientiane, taking an inventory of the boxes of condoms that have just arrived. “We give out almost 3,000 condoms a month at this youth centre,” she says as she counts the supply. “They’re not just for the young people who come here. They take many to give out to friends at their school too.”

The clinic is across the road from a busy secondary school and is the only place in the capital offering reproductive health services to young people, including free contraceptives and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), an outreach programme to schools, and a hotline for young people in rural areas.

The clinic is a model of what youth family planning services could look like in Laos, but health workers say too many young people remain out of reach.

Laos has one of the youngest populations in south-east Asia, with more than 60% of the population aged under 24. The country also has the highest adolescent birth rates in east Asia and the Pacific – almost one in 10 girls aged 15 to 19 has given birth. The unmet need for contraception is high, with 19% of girls aged 15 to 19 saying they want but do not have access to contraceptives.

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