’21st Century Kids': Where can we go for help?

Let’s have an open discussion about our sexual health and where we get advice and support from…

I recently ran a poll asking people on Twitter where they would be most comfortable getting sexual health information from. 44% voted for the ‘internet’ as their first port of call, yet 32% said that they would rather go to their friends for information. Whilst it may seem natural for us to turn to our friends for advice and support, these results are slightly worrying, as friends are not the most reliable source of information when it comes to our sexual health.

Friends can be biased; they may end up comforting you rather than being brutally honest, and unknowingly place you in harm’s way, or even worse, let your secrets out when there’s a misunderstanding. Unless your friend is a doctor or a counsellor, I’m not sure that they have the knowledge required to offer advice on sexual issues.

That leaves us with 24% of people that decided that they would go to a sexual health clinic to get access to proper medical services. This means that the majority of us (76%) are left without the information we need concerning our sexual health. Why is this the case?

BAD EXPERIENCES

A youth friendly centre or sexual health clinic should be the first point of contact when seeking help on sexual issues. It’s heart-breaking to know that so few young people feel comfortable enough to actually use these services.

The reason why so many of us are reluctant to visit a sexual health centre is not as far-fetched as it may sound at first, as quite a number of us have had unpleasant experiences with medical providers.

For instance, take a look at how sixteen year old Mary was embarrassed and referred to as a ‘21st century child’ in MTV Shuga 4, just because she wanted to know what contraceptives were available to her. Unfortunately, Mary went to a regular clinic and not one designed for youth services, and was met by an unhelpful and dismissive nurse. She was subsequently referred to one by a nurse who witnessed her negative experience.

Also, can you recall how Zamo was shamed by a nurse for asking about a morning after-pill in MTV Shuga: Down South? Whilst MTV Shuga may be a drama series, these scenes reflect the reality that many of us face.

Unfortunately, Mary and Zamo’s experience can be quite common, especially when the centre is not used to embracing young people, but we can’t let that deter us. It’s time for young people to be bold enough to get the sexual health info they need, even if it’s means they come across resistance at first.

#REALTALK: SHOLA’S STORY

A few months ago, my friend – let’s call her Shola – found her way to a sexual health clinic to gather information about long term contraceptive options. Unknown to her, the medical provider was her step mother’s friend and she disregarded the first rule of being a counsellor – CONFIDENTIALITY. Shola returned home to a fully-fledged Yoruba family meeting. I’m sure you can imagine how this story ends.

Readers can relate to this 100%, as we hate to admit that a lot of young people these days are already having sex and we find it hard to discuss these issues openly. This may seem funny but it is a universal situation that needs immediate attention. Whether it is South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya or anywhere else in the world, information and services on sexual health are essential for young people to make the right decisions when it comes to their personal lives.

We should not let these negative experiences discourage us from seeking help from the right places. Most of us haven’t actually been to a sexual health clinic and we base our assumptions on hear-says. I know a number of people treated with kindness and respect that have really encouraging things to share about the health centres they’ve been to.

A 23 year old lady told me of how she used to be a sex worker and was on the edge of having an unsafe abortion, until she spoke to a medical provider. Somehow, she was convinced to continue her pregnancy and she says that it was one of the best decisions she has ever made. Her son will be 5 years old next month.

Having access to the proper information from medical providers helped her make the decision that was best for her. She could have lost her life or damaged vital organs if she had gone ahead with an unsafe abortion, but instead she received the information she needed to remain safe and healthy.

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WHAT CAN YOU DO?

So how can we make sure that more of us receive the help and support we need? Here are my thoughts…

Persevere: Unfortunately, the reality remains that there are health clinics out there that do not treat young people well. Their misguidance should not be the reason why YOU miss out on the services that you are entitled to by law. It may be an uncomfortable and hard experience, but perservering and going to these clinics and demanding the support you need is so important. Would you rather have a moment of awkwardness with a nurse and get what you need, or face up to the realities of a teenage pregnancy or STIs because you felt uncomfortable?

Speak Out: There are good clinics out there. That is a fact. It is our responsibility to make sure that when we come across these gems, we share it with the world. Tweet it, tell your friends, whatever you want to do, but make sure that when you have been to a clinic that treats young people the way they are supposed to, then give them the credit they deserve. Even if no one responds, you’ll be spreading the message and may even help someone out without knowing it.

Break the Silence: Too much of us are afraid to admit that we have been to a sexual health clinic. Whether it is getting tested, asking about long-term contraception, or picking up some condoms, we should all OWN our stories. Speaking up and taking ownership of our bodies and the steps we take to protect ourselves and others around us can help break down the stigma surrounding sexual health, and encourage more people to do the same.

It is important to know this: efforts have been made to ensure that there are services out there who want to help young people out.

The first step is taking that all-important, but sometimes scary, leap of faith. Do your research and find out what clinic best suits you. Sounds like too much effort? Don’t worry, I got you covered!

WHERE SHOULD WE TURN TO?

If you live in Nigeria and need to visit a clinic, you can check out:

Marie Stopes International, Utako, Abuja.
Women’s Health and Action Research Centre, Benin City.
Hello Lagos, Lagos.

These three health care centres have empowered a host of young people and have provided them with relevant health services.

Sometimes, it can be hard for us to visit medical professionals and speak to someone in person. If you find yourself in that situation, then the internet can still provide you with some worthwhile information, but know that not everything online is correct. If you want some more, trusted advice on sexual health, check out AVERT for information you can rely on.

Sexual health clinics get a bad rep amongst young people. However, like all things in life, there are two sides to every story, and there really are good services out there for us all to take advantage of. Don’t miss out because of something you heard from that one person that one time.

If you want to make sure that you and your friends have the information you need, and avoid using the wrong channels when it comes to sexual health issues, like, share, retweet and spread the knowledge!

For more information on the issues covered by MTV Shuga, or to find help and support in your country, check out our dedicated knowledge page for more details…

  • Fauziyya Bashir

    A very insightful and thought-provoking article, nice job Debola. I love MTV Shuga!

  • Jchedda LayGiri

    Very well written! Might take a little more convincing for millennials but this is certainly a start!

  • Emike Okoyomoh

    This is so relatable…We really need to stop this whole shame culture. Cos alotttt of people are sexually active but fear of judgement and being ridiculed won’t let them get proper medical services. Respecting patient’s confidentiality also must be a priority in all cases as well

  • Maurene Glasgow-Akinjomo

    Very nicely written. Knowledge is power… Sexual health discussion is a big taboo for the older generation but definitely shouldn’t be overlooked especially by the newer generation who are more sexually active and more adventurous in their exploits. Even abstinence shouldn’t prevent one from educating oneself. It’s better to be safe than sorry, irrespective of shaming or judgement that could come from it.

  • Tolulope

    True talk, Debola. There really are good sexual health clinics out there which aren’t well-known because of the bad name their not-so-good counterparts have given them. This is a good read. Thanks for sharing jare!

  • Ade Dara

    I think there should be sexual
    health clinics in every state that has a university.
    Great post adebola.

  • Ayomide Ogunsanya

    Thank you for writing such a meaningful article!

  • Sylph.

    Nicely put, Adebola. Hopefully, this will bring about a change.

  • Mayowa Obafemi – Adewale

    Getting sexual information online also has two sides to it’s story. Information that can’t be gotten online is almost unheard of now. So “WHAT CAN YOU DO?” Apply the same tips the writer gave us, to help people get directed to the right and best information.

  • Adesina Titilope

    A good read. The stigma attached to anything sex in this part of the world is the major setback. But gradually, with time, we will overcome

  • Onyinye okpara

    I love the fact that she gave us addresses of sex clinics in nigeria. Very informative article.

  • Apple Sauce Penguin

    Insightful and very informative. Nicely written.

  • Ifeoluwa Aribatise

    I had no idea we even had sexual health clinics in Nigeria 🙀🙀. Awesome post ! I’ll be visiting one soon and I’ll give a feedback

  • Odulate Moyosore

    Well written debola!!! Really Insightful

  • Ayoade Onipede

    Amazing. How did I not know you had this talent before now? Nice work! 👏👏

  • Oreoluwa Aremo

    Beautifully written! Many people need to read this post because the world needs to know more about sex education and its importance. Well done babe x

    Oreoluwa’s Blog || Celebrating One Year Being A Lifestyle Blogger x Blog Giveaway

  • Femi Balogun

    Great article Debola. I could see how passionate and concerned you are through this article. We are often silent on salient issues like this in part of the worls, but gradually people are becoming more aware, thanks to passionate minds like you. I totally understood your stand on this. You didn’t drift from reality. Although I Want to ask you a question

  • Animashaun Hesjay Emmanuel

    This is nicely written and excellent enough to send the intended message out. A day at the Obs/Gyn clinic in any teaching hospital will make every right thinking mind sad, seeing the number of people who suffer complications that could have been prevented easily by visiting sexual health clinics and seeking sexual health counsel.

    The world is changing, and soon, the much circulated myths surrounding sexual health amongst the African people will be forgone. Interestingly, we now have many young professionals and volunteers who in their numbers take special interest in the advocacy and practices of sexual/reproductive health and rights.

    With the numbers increasing, and with the Government and other health stakeholders driving health policies that will take sexual health – like every other component of primary health care – straight to the grassroots, the ‘gospel’ of sexual health will spread, even faster. We can therefore say, that the future, to an extent is bright.

  • Tunde

    Wow! this is so real, i can totally relate to this as i had quite an unpleasant experience recently, young people’s last port of call when it comes to sexual health is the clinic or hospital due to the unprofessional conduct of staff there, and it only just makes things worse, we rarely discuss sexual health in nigeria and the people who should know better are just the worst, the whole country needs to be sensitized on this, both young n old people ass this is really important
    thank you so much for this

  • Tayo-Ojo O.A

    👌😊 This is power, we need to deliver knowledge as much as we can to ourselves, thanks for this. You just saved lives.