Study shows young women would rather get Aids than fall pregnant
Posted Monday, December 21 2009 at 22:00
- Young women using emergency pill far more regularly than recommended
When it comes to choosing emergency contraception, young Kenyan women trust their schoolmates. They also trust the chemist, the Internet and their boyfriends.
The only people they don’t trust are their parents
One word explains why a 25-year-old woman we’ll call Jane lowers her face in shame when explaining why she had unprotected sex with a man she had known for only a month.
“I trusted him,” Jane says, averting her eyes and squirming uncomfortably in her seat. The next morning, the enormity of her decision sank in — what if she got pregnant? She was still in college and definitely not equipped to raise a child.
Her new boyfriend came up with the solution — “Just swallow the ‘morning-after pill’ and you will have nothing to worry about,” he advised, even offering to dash to the chemist for her.
For Jane, the suggestion to use emergency contraception proved a “magic bullet” of sorts.
“Since I did not get pregnant that first time, I continued using the E-pill each time I had unprotected sex, which was at least once a week, convinced that I could not get pregnant,” she recalls.
A month later, however, that “magic bullet” took a wrong turn. Jane’s worst fear came to pass — she was pregnant and devastated.
“I just wasn’t ready to handle a pregnancy or worse, become someone’s mother. There was still so much that I wanted to do, so much that I wanted to accomplish…” Jane says, her voice trailing off.
Jane could easily speak for thousands of young women throughout Kenya.
Pick any 10 in the streets of Nairobi, and at least half admit to having unprotected sex — regularly. They will also tell you they don’t ask their partners about their sexual history, and that they use the E-pill far more often than is recommended.
That’s what the Nation found during an interview for this feature with 10 women between the ages of 19 and 27 years. Far from embodying the non-religious, immoral stereotype, these women were either in college or university, or employed in white-collar jobs.
Overwhelmingly, this group is likely to attribute their risky sexual behaviour to trust — the trust they place on boyfriends to shun sexual partners outside their relationship.
In the same breath, they claim strong awareness of the deadly risk posed by sexually transmitted diseases. These women say they’ve investigated various options for preventing pregnancy, yet place absolute trust in the relatively new E-pill as their contraceptive of choice.
In short, it would seem, these women at the peak of their reproductive years would rather face death, or long term complications of E-pill usage, than the condemnation or rejection from family, church leaders, or community resulting from pregnancy.
“My parents would probably kick me out should they find out that I’m sexually active, so I don’t even want to imagine their reaction should I get pregnant today,” says Sheila, a 22-year-old who is about to graduate from college.
This response confirms past Population Council research findings which indicate that fear of pregnancy outweighs fear of contracting the HIV virus among E-pill users — 79 per cent cited pregnancy as their biggest fear, while only 45 per cent thought they were at risk of contracting HIV through unprotected sex.