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Hum Reprod Update. 1999 Jan-Feb;5(1):1-20.

Current status of reproductive behaviour in Africa.

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Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya, Karen, Nairobi.


The current annual population growth rate of 3.2% in Africa will double the population by the year 2025. The majority of this population is below 15 years of age, and Africa concurrently also has the highest incidence of infertility in the world. Sexual behaviour, which has been poorly studied in Africa, has a direct impact on reproductive health [including fertility, infertility and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)]. The multiple cultures and religions which characterize the African continent also affect reproductive health. Factors that have a significant effect on reproductive health in Africa include greater prevalence of extramarital/commercial sexual activity, polygamy, lower prevalence of contraceptives, reliance on traditional practices, high incidence of STDs and teenage pregnancies. High risk reproductive behaviours are predominantly displayed by adolescents, and the prevalence of STDs, including HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), is very high in this group. Pregnancy-related complications are the major cause of health-related problems in 15-19 year old girls. Maternal mortality rates in most countries remain high. Literacy rates affect these behaviours. It is apparent that changing the sexual behaviour of adolescents is one way of reversing the adverse trends, such as STD transmission, unwanted pregnancy and poor general reproductive health.

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