Sexual and reproductive health has been affected by the epidemic in Latin America

Mexican specialists said Saturday that sexual and reproductive health in Latin America has been affected by the pandemic, with an increase in unwanted teen pregnancies and reduced access to prevention and detection methods for diseases.

“In Latin America, the epidemic has had important implications for the issue of sexual and reproductive health, but its true effects will come later,” gynecologist Elsa Diaz-López, medical director of the Specialized Group on Women’s Health (Gesfem), told World. Sexual Health Day.

It is estimated that in Mexico alone, twice as many unwanted teenage pregnancies can be expected, mainly derived from the fact that young people “do not have access to contraceptives such as condoms or hormonal contraceptives”.

According to Karla Berdichevsky, Director General of the National Center for Gender Equality and Reproductive Health at the Ministry of Health, the scale of the epidemic has forced countries such as Mexico to reconvert health units to treat Covid-19 patients.

He pointed out that “some health centers have suspended their activities due to lack of staff, and the most vulnerable populations, in rural or most deprived areas, are doubly affected.”

As a result, he explained, there was a 20% decrease in reproductive health care in people aged 20 to 49, and this figure rose in adolescents to 30%.

This is despite the fact that most countries in the region have developed public policies on sexual and reproductive health in recent years, which include free access to contraceptives and medicines needed for pregnancy and childbirth care.

Challenges to be faced

For Dr. Diaz-López, one of the main effects of the epidemic is the interruption of vaccination in girls against HPV, a tool for preventing cervical cancer.

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“Without a doubt, this will be one of the most important challenges,” the expert said.

Gabriela Rivera, National Officer for Sexual and Reproductive Health, Adolescents and Vulnerable Groups at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), highlighted that despite the progress made to ensure that all adolescents and young people can access and achieve sexuality education. Free decisions, this was not enough.

“We know there is a long way to go, especially to make this a reality at all levels of the population: indigenous, with some disabilities, and the most vulnerable,” he said.

He particularly highlighted the demand for the right to bodily independence because although all people should exercise this right, “not half of the women in the world can make these decisions about their bodies.”

He noted that there are still very low levels of decision-making in sexual activity, and warned that “if we do not progress, we will not achieve what we have proposed in the 2030 Agenda in this regard.”

Betting on digital access

One lesson the pandemic has left is the importance of digital access to health. “We understood the value of telemedicine. “Public institutions today offer remote consulting and it is necessary to take advantage of these tools,” Díaz-López said.

However, Neyli Yuval, Director of Regional and Sector Coordination at the Mexican Youth Institute, emphasized that inequality has also permeated digital spaces, so it is necessary to bridge the gaps and ensure that all people have access to these media.

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