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Open Access Research article

Assessing young unmarried men's access to reproductive health information and services in rural India

Arundhati Char14*, Minna Saavala24 and Teija Kulmala123

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Sciences, University of Tampere, 33014 Finland

2 Vaestoliitto, The Family Federation of Finland, Helsinki, Finland

3 The Department of International Health, University of Tampere, 33014, Finland

4 Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:476  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-476

Published: 17 June 2011

Abstract

Background

We investigated the accessibility of reproductive health information and contraceptives in a relatively less developed area of rural central India and assessed the risks facing young unmarried men.

Methods

This cross-sectional study used both qualitative and quantitative methods. Participants included 38 unmarried rural men in four focus-group discussions and a representative sample of 316 similarly profiled men, aged 17-22 years, in a survey. Information was collected on the men's socioeconomic characteristics; awareness, knowledge, and perceptions of family planning; attitudes toward future contraceptive use; intra-family communication; knowledge about STIs/HIV/AIDS; and access and use of condoms. Content analysis for qualitative information and descriptive analysis for survey data were used to draw conclusions.

Results

Young unmarried rural Indian men's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) knowledge is limited, although the majority is familiar with condoms (99%). The young men identified electronic mass media (67%) as the prime source of reproductive health information, yet they lacked detailed knowledge of various contraceptives and felt ignored by health providers, who, they felt, would be capable of providing SRH information through interpersonal communication. Young men are more concerned about avoiding infections and securing sexual pleasure and less concerned about avoiding potential pregnancies. For example, 68% of the young men were aware of condoms and their HIV/AIDS preventive role, but only about two-fifths mentioned condom use to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Although most young men (96%) knew where to access a condom, they felt uncomfortable or embarrassed doing so in their own villages or close by because of socio-cultural norms that prevented them from using contraceptives. Very few respondents (4%) disclosed using condoms themselves, but 59% said they knew someone from their peer group who had used them.

Conclusions

Young unmarried men in rural India are underserved with regard to SRH information and services, because they are not recognized as key targets under the public health system, and they receive their limited knowledge and information mainly from the mass media; this situation could be greatly improved by public health service providers. It is important that programmers involve young men with effective communication strategies to enable them to act responsibly with regard to their own sexual health needs.

Keywords:
Young men; sexual and reproductive health; access; services; information; condoms; rural India