in Southeastern Europe, the State Union of Serbia and
Montenegro is a federation with a population of around
10.6 million people. Prior to the break up of Yugoslavia,
the country enjoyed a relatively well-developed, universal
system of health care, social services and education. However, the impoverishment
of the country in the last decade— as well as social and political turmoil— has
decreased the resources available for health and education. 13.5% of residents
of Serbia and 16% of Montenegrians are between 15 and 24 years old. Recent
research on adolescent reproductive and sexual health indicates a low awareness
among young people on sexually transmitted infections and of contraceptives,
a decrease in average age at first intercourse, and a high incidence of abortions,
about half of which are illegal or unsafe. In addition, there has been an increase
in the number of children born outside of
half of these children
are born to teenage mothers.
Although HIV prevalence in Serbia and Montenegro
is relatively low in comparison with other Eastern European
countries, Serbia and Montenegro ranks the second highest
in Southeastern Europe. Research shows that only about
20% of young people between ages 20-24 have adequate knowledge of HIV/AIDS,
and young people account for 40% of HIV incidence.
Refugee and the Roma community youth are most vulnerable.
In 2002, Serbia had over 63,000 refugee youth aged 15-24,
whereas Montenegro had about a thousand refugees aged
14-18. The Roma community is both poor and marginalized,
lacks access to water and sanitation, education, and
healthcare. This marginalized status increases chances
of engaging in risk behavior, thus contributing to a
rise in STIs, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse.
With UNFPA support, social marketing of condoms was
initiated in Albania, Romania and the UN Administered
Province of Kosovo, as well as in Georgia and Armenia.
Based on lessons learned from these social marketing experiences, UNFPA,
in partnership with
Population Services International (PSI)
and UNAIDS, launched a regional
condom project to change attitudes and behaviours of
young people in Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Bulgaria. The What’s Your Excuse? campaign uses mass
media to promote condom use among young people.
A growing number of NGOs and institutions working in
the area of peer education in Serbia and Montenegro are
developing programmes that are focused not only on providing
accurate information, but also on changing young people's
attitudes and behaviors. The State Union has a relatively
developed network of NGOs that work in the field of sexual
and reproductive health education, HIV and STI
prevention, and prevention of substance abuse. Several
organizations use teen telephone lines and internet to
give advice to young people in emergencies or to answer
their questions about sexual health and contraception.
While most organizations are based in Belgrade, there
are a few organizations in Novi Sad, Nis, Podgorica,
Pozega, Arilje, Valjevao, Subotica, etc.
Serbia and Montenegro is one of the Y-Peer countries. With a web site at its
core, Y-Peer is a UNFPA-led project to encourage safer sexual behaviour among
adolescents using peer educators and local NGOs.