Understanding sexual and reproductive health needs of young women living in Zika affected regions: A qualitative study in northeastern Brazil

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Abstract

Background: In 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to Zika's association with microcephaly and other neurological disorders. Brazil was the epicenter of this epidemic and the most affected region has the lowest Human Development Index and the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy. Despite the end of the epidemic, Brazil continues to be the epicenter of Zika illness. This study examined the barriers faced by young women who seek sexual and reproductive health (SRH) care services living in affected areas and their attitudes towards SRH needs and the available services. Methods: Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 young women, aged 14-24 years in three Zika affected municipalities in the Brazilian Northeast. This qualitative research used thematic analysis for data analysis. Results: Almost half (n = 10) of the participants had their first pregnancy during adolescence (from 12 to 19), all of which were unintended. Lack of information and barriers to access family planning were found to contribute to the unmet need for contraception. Participants reported knowledge gaps about contraception. Zika was not considered a health concern and participants were unaware of the possibility of Zika's sexual transmission. Conclusions: The young women's knowledge and attitudes towards their SRH needs highlight the barriers to access care. It also implies that comprehensive, biopsychosocial and political, understanding is necessary in order to adequately provide SRH to this population and meet their needs. The government should place women at the center of any public health response to an emergency affecting women of reproductive age and focus on improving access to information and family planning services in a culturally and age appropriate manner.

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Diniz, D., Ali, M., Ambrogi, I., & Brito, L. (2020). Understanding sexual and reproductive health needs of young women living in Zika affected regions: A qualitative study in northeastern Brazil. Reproductive Health, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-020-0869-4

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