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Risky Sexual Behaviors: Trends Among Young People (10–24 Years) in Four East African Countries  

Fredrick E. Makumbi, Sarah Nabukeera, Justine N. Bukenya, and Simon Peter Sebina Kibira

The future of sub-Saharan Africa depends on the health of young people (10–24 years) who form about one-third of the region’s population. This large population of young people is a potential asset for social-economic development if appropriate investments and social empowerment can be provided. Despite the vast opportunities, young people are faced with enormous social, economic, and health challenges. Young people’s health increasingly remains important especially with the use and misuse of narcotics (drugs and alcohol) a key risk factor for risky sexual behaviors (RSBs). RSBs are defined as behaviors that increase one’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and unintended pregnancies. RSBs include multiple sex partners, sex without a condom, alcohol use with sex, sex initiation before age 15, nonuse of modern contraceptives, and early marriage (before age 18 years). RSBs are reportedly influenced by a number of factors including lack of access to accurate, customized HIV information and prevention services, socioeconomic reasons, lack of parental control, peer pressure, and lack of youth-friendly recreational facilities. The consequences or impact of RSB, especially among the adolescents and young people, include poor health (STIs including HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, maternal deaths, and mental health such as psychological distress), and negative social and economic challenges (nonenrollment and nonretention in school and early child marriage). Understanding the trends in RSBs can provide insights in how well available interventions and policies have minimized their consequences among adolescents, and lay a basis to further develop more innovative and effective strategies especially in low-income countries.