There is an urgent need for the global community to act on the preceding principles and recommendations. Currently comprising more than 1.5 billion people, young adults, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as those individuals aged 10 to 24, face considerable threats to their reproductive health. Adolescents, 83 percent of whom live in developing countries, are vulnerable to sexual assault, rape and prostitution, too-early pregnancy and childbearing, infertility, anemia, genital mutilation, malnutrition, unsafe abortion, and reproductive tract infections (RTI) including STD and HIV/AIDS. Findings from 17 studies in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean led Weiss and colleagues of the Women and AIDS Research Program to note that adolescent sexual experiences are 'driven by a wide range of factors' including not only romance and sexual desire but economic gain and sexual coercion (Weiss, Whelan, & Gupta, 1996). Young people themselves have brought attention to the realities that threaten their reproductive health daily. In a recent essay contest in which the UNFPA invited adolescents all over the world to discuss responsible reproductive health, more than 500 boys and girls from 107 countries eloquently highlighted the lack of equality between the sexes and argued the need for the following: better information regarding the joys and dangers of early sexual relationships; accurate information about AIDS and other STD; access to advice relating to early marriage; greater male involvement in family responsibilities; and support and guidance as they make their transition to adulthood (Popnews, 1996).
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