This year’s World Population Day, which will be observed on July 11, focuses on men and boys. A recent study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and country partner organizations reveals that when it comes to condom use, young men are on the right track. Focusing on the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents in four Sub-Saharan African countries, our study found that between a third and half of sexually active 15–19-year-olds in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Uganda use condoms every time they have sex; more than half use them regularly but not consistently. While not perfect, this level of condom use suggests that young men are getting some of the health information they need and—even better—are acting on it.

Though promising, the study also showed that, at most, only a third of young men in those countries possess the level of knowledge they need to protect themselves and their partners from unintended pregnancy and STIs, including HIV. Fear, shame, embarrassment and not knowing where to go topped young people’s list of barriers they face in obtaining sexual health information and services.

On this day dedicated to reflecting upon and addressing global population issues, this new evidence from Guttmacher highlights the critical importance of helping young people break down the barriers they face. We must provide adolescents with comprehensive sexual health information before they become sexually active, as well as access to the confidential health services and supplies they need.

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