The teenage pregnancy rate in Macedonia is almost three times higher than the EU average
The data published by the Macedonian Association of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (MAGO) and HERA - Association for Health Education and Research on the occasion of World Contraception Day and World Safe Abortion Day show that as many as 36 percent of boys and three percent of girls at 15 age had sexual experience, and the rate of teenage pregnancy in our country is almost three times higher than the average of the European Union
Protected sexual intercourse, according to published data, is practiced only by 20 percent of girls and 62 percent of boys among the Albanian population and by 64 percent of boys and 52 percent of girls among the Macedonian population. Among young people up to the age of 29, only 12,8 percent use a contraceptive.
None of the few available modern contraceptives in the country is on the Positive List of Medicines.
On the other hand, although the budget for free modern contraception for girls and women in vulnerable situations provided for by the Preventive Program for Mothers and Children increased from 100 thousand denars in 2022 to 500 thousand denars this year, free contraception, as it was announced, only gets women living in Skopje and only through the University Clinic for Gynecology and Obstetrics.
Despite the fact that this year the state finally provided access to verified information about contraceptives through the bilingual website, produced by the Institute of Public Health and HERA, yet state policies and state funding for contraception coverage, as highlighted, are negligible. This is also confirmed by the European Contraception Atlas, according to which our country is rated at only 46,9 percent and is listed among the countries in red color, together with Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, Russia, Belarus, Turkey and Hungary.
When it comes to safe abortion, during the last year and this year, MAGO and HERA have trained 100 gynecologists in the application of medical abortion - abortion with drugs, which is a much simpler procedure for terminating a pregnancy than a surgical one, which is why, as it was reported, even 80 percent of abortions in Europe are performed with drugs.
According to Vesna Matevska, program manager at HERA, despite the fact that medical abortion is much more in demand than surgical abortion, access to this health service is difficult, because these drugs are not registered in the country, so UGAK procures them only through interventional imports.
– This process can take a long time, because it must be in accordance with the public procurement plan, which, in turn, implies a series of administrative procedures. This, in turn, calls into question the availability of medical abortion, which can only be performed up to the 12th week of pregnancy, Matevska pointed out.
The Government is requested to expand the Positive list of drugs with at least one modern contraceptive as soon as possible, to increase the budget for free modern contraceptives annually and to find a mechanism for as many state hospitals as possible to receive adequate amounts, which will provide equal access to free contraception for women from all over the country, as well as register drugs for medical abortion and increase the budget for their procurement every year.
According to the president of MAGO, professor doctor Gligor Tofoski, children should receive information about sexual health even before they start having sexual relations.
- The more information they have, it has been scientifically proven that they enter sexual relations more carefully and later than those children who are not told anything, Tofoski pointed out.
Vesna Matevska, program manager of HERA, says that sex education means how to say "no" to behavior you don't like.
– How to refuse the pressure from the environment to start sexual relations early. Sex education in some way prepares young people to even postpone perhaps the first sexual intercourse, which due to peer pressure, can be hasty and very often unprotected, Matevska stressed.