Family Planning is not just for “old and married people”: Reflections on the challenges and realities of misinformation around family planning and HIV from EGPAF’s Committee of African Youth Advisors

We are young people living with HIV from 11 African countries who make up the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s Committee of African Youth Advisors (CAYA). In our respective countries, we hold different roles such as peer educators, youth champions, and youth advocates. We also actively engage in dialogues about adolescent and youth reproductive health at national and local levels.

“The most important is to have voices of young people who have experienced with FP in the resources, especially to quote on the benefits and some side effects they experienced as well as giving encouragement to demystify barriers to access FP services”

-CAYA member, Kenya

Family planning (FP) continues to be a challenge for young people infected and affected by HIV because of how it intersects with different beliefs—whether social, cultural, religious, or personal—and how those beliefs impact how and if FP services are provided to young people.

Myths, misconceptions, and misinformation around FP continue to exist in part due to young people not feeling comfortable discussing FP options, fearing providers’ judgment/attitudes, or not understanding the given information because it is not simplified or youth-friendly. When young people do want to talk about it, the response can be that “FP [is] meant for older and married people”.

These obstacles impact young people’s perceptions and uptake of FP. Some of the most common questions and concerns around FP we and our peers’ experience include:

  • Does FP cause infertility in the future?
  • What are the side effects for different FP methods (infertility, weight gain, changing menstrual cycles, and reducing sexual desires)?
  • Will I be perceived as promiscuous if I use FP?
  • Does FP protect against STIs?

It is important to ensure young people receive accurate, easy to comprehend information around FP choices in safe, non-judgmental spaces, while emphasizing dual protection (pregnancy and HIV) with contraception. With the necessary knowledge around benefits and side effects for different available FP methods, young people can decide the best option for them, and take control over their health and lives.