Health: In what should help adolescents make better decisions, an Adolescence Friendly Health Services (AFHS) unit was inaugurated at the Mongar regional referral hospital (MRRH), yesterday.

In a presentation, MRRH gynaecologist and officiating medical superintendent, Dr Sonam Gyamtsho, said that adolescence is a sensitive period in when they are “no longer children, not yet adults.” He added during this stage of their lives, adolescents have different needs and if guided properly, can have even better making decision abilities than adults.

He pointed out that it is a stage where sexual activity begins and it was very important for the topic to be discussed. He added that while many adolescents do come to the hospital to discuss such issues, doctors usually did not have time.

It was also explained that adolescence is a time of heightened sensitivity to peers and that this influences experimentation and other health related behaviours that could lead to substance abuse and psychiatric problems or disorders.

Eating disorders, malnutrition, menstrual problems, mental problems, early and unprotected sex, sexual abuse, addictive behaviours, depression and suicide, were some of the health problems that adolescents could experience, it was presented.

The AFHS is expected to solve this problem.

It will be eligible to all adolescents aged from 10-24, irrespective of occupation and marital status. It will be open from 9am – 3pm on working days and for emergencies during holidays.

The AFHS will provide information and counselling on sexuality, safe sex and reproductive health, temporary contraceptive methods and emergency contraception, among others. It will also provide pregnancy testing, care during pregnancy and after delivery, treatment and counselling for common sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and will also deal with sexual violence and abuse.

Dr Sonam Gyamtsho said that privacy and confidentiality of those seeking the AFHS’s services will be strictly maintained. He said they would also not be required to make appointments or stand in queue. He added that adequate time will be provided to discuss problems and concerns.

Mongar dzongda Sherab Tenzin said the AFHS delivers on the rights of adolescents to health care especially reproductive care, and will ensure that this generation of adolescents will in turn safeguard the healths of their children.

Advocacy on such issues will also be carried out in schools, drayangs, and the dratshang.

By Tashi Phuntsho, Mongar