Earlier this year, we featured Dr. Linnet Masese, then a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, as well as a 2011 Global WACh Integrated Health Seed Grant recipient. Dr. Masese has conducted meaningful research collaborations around the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among adolescents and young women in Kenya and the barriers they face to STIs prevention, care, and support. The first of three papers (“Barriers and Facilitators of Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Mombasa, Kenya”) from her study supported by seed funding was published in PLOS One in January 2017. We are thrilled to announce the remaining two papers were recently published in scientific journals.
In the paper titled, “Parents’ and teachers’ views on sexual health education and screening for sexually transmitted infections among in-school adolescent girls in Kenya: a qualitative study,” Dr. Masese and her study team focus on the acceptability of STI screening in schools for adolescent girls. Parents and teachers can play crucial roles to influence adolescents’ reproductive health choices, thus, the study team felt it was important to understand parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards sexual health education. Through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the team discovered a great need to improve parent-adolescent communication around sexual health, to lessen the taboo nature of discussing sex. Based on findings from this qualitative study, parents and teachers’ views on the acceptability of school-based STI screening suggest that expanded interventions are possible in this community. Data from this study may assist the work of other researchers and program planners with an interest in STI screening and adolescent sexual health. This paper is published in Reproductive Health.
Based on findings from the first two papers, Dr. Masese and her team developed a screening intervention. In the third paper, published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, (“Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Mombasa, Kenya: Feasibility, Prevalence, and Correlates”), they recruited adolescent girls and young women from high schools and universities to pilot a clinic-based STI screening. After attending information sessions, a substantial number of interested young women were willing to undergo the screening, many of whom were university students and did not need parental consent. The study results highlight the strength of using school-based sensitization as a way to encourage adolescents and young women to seek STI diagnosis and care at health clinics. While the clinic-based STI screening intervention suggested an effective school-based approach to decrease barriers for STI screenings among young women, younger adolescents continue to face the barrier of parental consent for screenings.
Both studies highlight the need to tailor or design reproductive health services to meet the needs of adolescents and young women. Dr. Masese and her study team’s research achievements conclude school-based STI screening is feasible and acceptable when conducted in collaboration with students, parents, and teachers. We congratulate Dr. Masese and her team for their excellent work, and look forward to learning how their work informs new approaches to improve sexual health education and STI screenings.