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Over Half of Chinese Youth Report Unmet Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs

BEIJING, 4 May,2010—Peking University, the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council (NWCCW), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA China) today released preliminary findings of China’s first national survey on youth access and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services. The survey sample represented the country’s 164 million unmarried youth aged between 15 and 24 in 2009. 

Findings indicate that about 60 per cent of unmarried youth are open to having sex before marriage; 22.4 per cent have had sex, and over half of them did not use any contraceptive method during their first sex act. Among female youth who have had sex, 20 per cent had unplanned pregnancies, and 91 per cent of them resorted to abortion. 

About 60 per cent of the needs of youth for counselling and more than 50 per cent of their need for reproductive health services are not met. This was mostly attributed to subjects “feeling embarrassed” or “not being serious”. Only 4.4 per cent of youth were well informed about reproductive health and 14.4 per cent had correct knowledge about preventing HIV infection. 

Su Fengjie, Standing Vice Director of NWCCW, said at the Peking University release meeting, “The survey provides a necessary nationwide evidence base for the policy that aims to improve the access of youth to high quality of information and services.”

With the rapid development of the country and changing social values, the youth population’s need for sexual and reproductive health information and services is growing as behaviours change and youth are exposed to increasing reproductive health risks, including unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV. 

“Traditionally in China reproductive health services are provided only to married couples. The rights of youth to reproductive health education, information and care should be further protected in line with China’s commitments to the International Conference on Population and Development,” said Dr. Bernard Coquelin, UNFPA Representative in China.

Professor Zhang Guoyou, Vice President of Peking University, said the university was proud to release the preliminary survey results on its 112th anniversary. “I hope the first survey of its kind conducted by Peking University can help put unmet needs of youth high on the agenda of policymakers and raise public awareness on these issues.”  

Following the release of preliminary findings, the survey data will be analysed to inform national policy and recommended strategies to address the unmet needs of youth.