An ambitious programme to remove sexual misconceptions and associated fears in adolescents and promote sexual health among the youth,including those married,has reached out to more than 50,000 youth in rural areas of the state since April and is now ready to cover urban areas as well.
The Adolescent Reproductive Sexual Health (ARSH) programme which has been running in rural areas of the state is now being upgraded,and 15 ARSH clinics are being be set up in urban areas.
ARSH was initially aimed at the large number of adolescents who drop out of school,get married early,work in vulnerable conditions and are sexually active. ARSH was planned to delay the age of marriage,reduce teenage pregnancies and empower adolescent groups.
It has been now been upgraded to include urban areas in the state. Cities like Pune,Aurangabad and others will have ARSH clinics.
Babita Kamalapurkar,Assistant Director of Health,Maharashtra,told Pune Newsline that 140 ARSH clinics have been set up in rural parts of the state but a need has been felt to upgrade intervention and identify troubled youngsters who require assistance.
ARSH clinics will assure privacy and confidentiality to youngsters who feel shy to ask questions related to sexual health, Kamalapurkar said.
The services will be provided in a friendly manner to gain their confidence,she said.
Adolescent health is among key programmes under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and until December last year,treatment and counselling were offered to 52,029 adolescents in the age group (10 -19 years).
According to S G Kulkarni,Assistant Director of Health,Maharashtra,there is curiosity among adolescents about sexual activities and there is a need to provide the right guidance.
In many situations,parents are not aware of the value of providing sexual and reproductive health knowledge to adolescents. They do not believe adolescents should have access to such health services,experts said.
Another 500 ARSH clinics have been proposed for urban areas in 2013-14 and the state has involved medical officers in zilla parishad and municipal schools to identify youths who need counseilling.
This will help curb suicidal tendencies among this vulnerable population,Dr V M Khanande,Additional Director of Health,Maharashtra said.
Until December,of the 52,029 adolescents given treatment or counselling,at least 6,667 had queries related to periods,45,315 underwent counselling and clinical services for various ailments and 4,018 had a follow up on Reproductive and Sexually Transmitted Infections. At least 1,614 had asked for condoms,Kulkarni said.