Adolescent sexual and reproductive health

Resource date: November 2014

For millions of young people around the world, the onset of adolescence brings not only changes to their bodies but also new vulnerabilities to human rights abuses, particularly in the arenas of sexuality, marriage and childbearing.

Millions of girls are coerced into unwanted sex or marriage, putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and dangerous childbirth. Adolescent boys are at risk, as well. Young people – both boys and girls – are disproportionately affected by HIV.

Yet too many young people face barriers to reproductive health information and care. Even those able to find accurate information about their health and rights may be unable to access the services needed to protect their health.

Supporting adolescents’ health and rights

Adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health must be supported. This means providing access to comprehensive sexuality education; services to prevent, diagnose and treat STIs; and counselling on family planning. It also means empowering young people to know and exercise their rights – including the right to delay marriage and the right to refuse unwanted sexual advances.

UNFPA partners with other UN agencies and with governments, civil society, young people and youth-serving organizations to actively promote and protect the sexual and reproductive health and human rights of adolescents.

Youth-friendly services

Working with ministries, NGOs and other partners, UNFPA also advocates for and supports the efficient delivery of a holistic, youth-friendly health-care package of services. These include:

  • Universal access to accurate sexual and reproductive health information;
  • A range of safe and affordable contraceptive methods;
  • Sensitive counselling
  • Quality obstetric and antenatal care for all pregnant women and girls; and
  • The prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV

UNFPA also works to ensure health services and supportive programmes are available to young people who are marginalized or hard to reach.

Selected links

The Rights to Contraceptive Information and Services for Women and Adolescents
Making health services adolescent friendly
Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Situations
Adolescent pregnancy
Family planning