Perceived barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services for youth in Lao People's Democratic Republic

Souksamone Thongmixay*, Dirk Rombout Essink, Tim De Greeuw, Viengnakhone Vongxay, Vanphanom Sychareun, Jacqueline E.W. Broerse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Background Sexual activity during youth is common in Lao PDR. However, young people seldom utilize sexual and reproductive health services and subsequently suffer from poor sexual and reproductive health. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore the barriers perceived by youth that prevent their access to sexual and reproductive health services. Methods Twenty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 participants aged 15-25 years, from urban and rural areas. A vignette was used during interviews with those who had no experience with sexual and reproductive health services. Additionally, seven semistructured interviews were conducted with health providers from youth-friendly health clinics and from public sexual and reproductive health services. Data were analyzed using a thematic approach. Results The main barriers preventing young people from accessing sexual and reproductive health services were related to cognitive accessibility and psychosocial accessibility. The cognitive accessibility barriers were a lack of sexual knowledge and a lack of awareness of services. Perceived barriers in psychosocial accessibility were the feelings of shyness and shame caused by negative cultural attitudes to premarital sex, and the fear of parents finding out about visits to public sexual and reproductive health services, due to lack of confidentiality in the services and among health providers. In addition, the barriers of geographical accessibility, mainly insufficient availability of youth-friendly health clinics. Conclusion To improve access to services, a multi-component strategy is needed: promotion of youthfriendly health clinics; sexual education in schools; a formal referral system between schools and youth-friendly health clinics; and community support interventions. Prior to implementation, more research should be done on the applicability of these methods in the Laos context. Future research should try to determine the cost-effectiveness of youth-friendly health clinics integrated in a district hospital and stand-alone clinics, to provide insight into which form should be further developed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0218296
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2019

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