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Lao PDR Background Youth and Adolescents

In 1999, the Lao PDR Government approved the National Population and Development Policy, which is a comprehensive document in line with the ICPD Programme of Action. Most notably, it is the first time in the Lao PDR that the RH needs of adolescents and unmarried youth have been acknowledged. Young people aged 10-29 years constitute 39.6 per cent of the population, and the negative implications of a fast-growing young population for sustainable economic development are increasingly recognised by policy makers.

Although the country currently has a low HIV prevalence rate of 0.05 per cent, with HIV/AIDS rates rising in the five neighbouring countries, and population mobility increasing both within and across borders, the Lao PDR is clearly at risk. The National HIV/AIDS Policy, approved in 2001, recognises that young people constitute a particularly vulnerable group, and promotes multi-sectoral collaborative efforts as a means of addressing the widespread need for accurate, appropriate information and preventive measures.

Despite concerns about the reproductive health status of young people, only limited information and guidance on RH and sexual responsibility is currently available. Research has indicated that adolescent knowledge of RH issues, including knowledge about reproductive physiology, pregnancy, contraception, and STDs/HIV/AIDS, is minimal. Concurrently, there is some evidence to suggest that adolescents are increasingly engaging in unprotected pre-marital sex. The incidence of abortion is reputedly high but, being illegal, there is no data available.

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