THE National Family Planning Board (NFPB) plans to get at least 600 young women in the Corporate Area started on contraception on Valentine's Day, this Friday, February 14 in its ongoing effort to prevent mistimed and unwanted pregnancies.
Volunteers will choose either the pill, or an injection, which is a longer-term option.
The services will be offered in the centre of Cross Roads, where Kingston and St Andrew meet, and will be free of cost.
The event will be the highlight of a week of activities to mark Safer Sex Week and will also feature condom distribution and free HIV testing and counselling, given that the NFPB last year assumed responsibility for the administration of the National HIV/STI programme.
Safer Sex Week was introduced in 1995 to deliberately coincide with the day of love as it's "an excellent opportunity to enforce safer sex messages in the context of an anticipated increase in sexual activity and lovemaking", the NFPB said.
"It's the perfect opportunity to remind people that sex comes with some amount of risk," board chair Dr Sandra Knight told the Jamaica Observer Press Club last Thursday.
The theme this year is Protect Your Love: Use Condoms and Contraceptive Injection.
The board explained that it is encouraging the use of two methods of contraception — a condom plus any other — in order to impact not only the STI infection rate, but also the pregnancy rate among persons who are not ready to become parents, as well.
"We want you to choose two methods because we recognise that the discontinuing rate of condoms is high, particulalrly when you feel comfortable or feel that this is a stable, monogamous relationship. However, you need to plan for family, so you need that back-up," said acting director of Outreach and Prevention, Marion Scott.
"This is a development issue because who takes care of these children when they are unplanned?" she continued.
The board said that 66.2 per cent of women in the 15-19 age group had mistimed pregnancies while 14.6 per cent had unwanted pregnancies. In the 20-24 age group, 47.4 per cent of the pregnancies were mistimed, while 8.4 per cent were unwanted.
In addition, it said 72 out of every 1,000 births were to teenaged mothers, according to the Sexual and Reproductive Health Survey, last done in 2008.
"This shows that the teenagers are most affected and need to be targeted," the agency said.
Where HIV is concerned, the NFPB referenced data, also from 2008, that showed that there are 32,000 people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, half of whom are unaware of their status. Women traditionally do better than men at voluntary testing, it said, but there is need for improvement in both groups.
"The 2008 Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Behaviour (KAPB) that surveyed 1,800 adults between the ages of 15 and 49 years indicates that more than a third (38.9 per cent) of the sexually active respondents reported having multiple partnerships in the past 12 months. More specifically, in the 15-24 age group, 47.2 per cent of the respondents reported to being involved in multiple partnerships. Additionally, the KAPB notes that the incidence of multiple partnerships was significantly higher than males in the 15-24 age group," said the NFPB.
The family planning and sexual health agency reported too, that according to the KAPB, there was "little or no concern" for contracting HIV or an STI due to the perception of condom use.
"According to the research, even those who had used no condoms in their last sex act saw themselves at little or no risk of contracting HIV (78.9 per cent) as it was only sometimes that they used no condoms (42.2 per cent)."
Safer Sex Week will also have a prominent social media presence as the board plans to engage the public on Facebook and Twitter on a different topic each day:
* Monday — #ProtectYourLove (Discussion on different STIs)
* Tuesday — #PracticeSaferSex (Facts about condoms and contraceptive injections)
* Wednesday — #AccessServices (HIV testing, family planning counselling, etc)
* Thursday — #BringSexyBack (Partner protection and communication)
* Friday — #Choose2Contraceptives (Highlights of the safer sex national event)