Does jumping up and down after sex prevent pregnancy? A shocking 83% of more than 1,000 young people recently taught reproductive health education by Ugat ng Kalusugan in Puerto Princesa City said yes (the correct answer is no!). 66% also believed that it is impossible to get pregnant if it’s your first time to have sex (it is not impossible! Or even unlikely!). 94% of respondents believed that withdrawal is an effective contraception method (it’s not!). Only 46% of respondents knew that condoms can protect against pregnancy and HIV (they can!), and finally, 38% believed that Filipinos are safe from HIV (we’re not!). Given all this, it isn’t surprising that Palawan’s teen pregnancy rate is even higher than the national average, at 28% (the national rate is 25%). It’s also not surprising that Puerto Princesa has the highest incidence of HIV in the MIMAROPA Region.
The Philippines is a conservative country and most view sex and sexuality as something inappropriate to discuss. Thus, young people do not receive scientifically based sexuality education in schools, and do not receive any guidance or information from their parents. Young people report to Ugat ng Kalusugan that the only sexuality advice they receive from parents and/or teachers is being told not to have sex until marriage.
However, many young people do not wait until they are married to have sex. The 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS 4) conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc. (DRDF) found that one in three Filipinos (33%) aged 15 to 24 years old has engaged in premarital sex. This percentage translates to roughly 6.2 million young people engaging in sex without knowing how to protect themselves. Our teen pregnancy rates clearly support these findings that many teens are sexually active. For many young people, abstinence until marriage is a choice and a commitment that they have made. But, for a variety of reasons, other young people have not made this commitment, or choose not to follow through. And because they have never had formal sexuality education, they do not know how to keep themselves safe from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.
At Ugat ng Kalusugan, one of our goals is to help prevent teen pregnancy. We teach young people and we encourage them to delay sex until they are older. We help them to recognize that an unplanned pregnancy could derail their education and prevent them from achieving their goals and dreams. But, we do not ignore the fact that 33% of young people do engage in sex even if they say they won’t. And some of the young people we teach are already involved in sexual relationships. Therefore, we provide education to help correct misconceptions and prevent misinformation.
I’m pleased to report that after our intervention with the students I mentioned above, 89% knew that jumping up and down after sex does notprevent pregnancy. 94% of them knew that a girl can get pregnant even if it’s her first sexual encounter. 75% knew that withdrawal is not an effective form of contraception. 90% knew that condoms are an effective method to prevent pregnancy and STIs, and 89% knew that Filipinos are not safe from HIV. This knowledge is crucial to spread among other youth in our efforts to help prevent teen pregnancy and the continued spread of HIV.