Objectives Migrant and refugee youth (MRY) in Australia face specific experiences that inform their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Migrant and refugee communities experience poorer health outcomes, and have lower health service uptake than non-migrant counterparts. Additionally, youth are vulnerable to poor sexual health and compromised sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), with Australian youth being disproportionately represented in national STI rates. MRY specifically face both challenges related to belonging to marginalised migrant and refugee communities, as well as those faced by young people transitioning to adulthood. Our study aims were to use an online quantitative survey to 1) investigate MRYs’ understanding of and experiences with SRHR; 2) identify the barriers and facilitators shaping SRH outcomes; and 3) examine socioecological factors that influence SRHR needs, literacy, service utilisation and access.
Methods An online survey was developed examining MRY sexual behaviour, knowledge and understanding, education, beliefs and attitudes, service utilisation and SRHR awareness. The survey was piloted with 9 MRY and revised according to feedback. A combination of multiple choice, Likert scale, and open-text questions were used. Respondents were MRY (n = 102) aged 15–26 years, of a migrant or refugee background, living in the Greater Western Sydney area. Snowball and purposive sampling methods were used. Preliminary descriptive statistics were run on key demographic, sexual behaviour and service utilisation questions.
Results Most participants (n = 72) identified as female, with 29 identifying as male and one as non-binary. Participants identified as children of a migrant or refugee (55.9%), migrants (30.4%), or refugees (11.8%). Only 29% of respondents always used contraception to prevent pregnancy and protection to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 36% of participants never used protection to prevent STIs. Reasons given for lack of use included not needing protection if on the contraceptive pill, partners not wanting to and expense. Awareness of SRH services was low, with 63.7% reporting being unaware of any services in their area. Only 2.9% felt that current services meet the SRH needs of MRY ‘very well’, while 16.7% felt that their needs were met ‘not well at all’. 45.1% were unaware if sexual and reproductive rights.
Conclusions Preliminary results indicate compromised SRHR in key areas: inadequate contraceptive and protection use, lack of engagement with services, and lack of rights awareness. Findings show that some MRY lack understanding of the difference between contraceptive pills and barrier protection against STIs. This further suggests deficits in SRH education and knowledge. Results indicate that SRH services are failing to engage MRY and adequately support them. Lack of awareness of services, and the inadequacy of services MRY are aware of, significantly infringes on rights to access health care. Lack of rights knowledge also limits MRY ability to articulate and action their rights. Significant changes to services are necessary to ensure that MRY are aware of services and that these services actually meet MRY needs.
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