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Agueda Miranda is on the phone explaining to a teenage girl that, if she gets a contraceptive implant in her arm, there is no way it could travel to her heart or brain and kill her.
A professionally trained counsellor at the Marie Stopes Sexual Health Infoline in Timor-Leste (East Timor), Agueda listens to the concerns of her callers, provides information, dispels myths, explains various contraceptives, and gives them the address of their local clinic.
Timor-Leste has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the South East Asia region. Less than one percent of girls aged 15-19 use contraception.
“There are so many misconceptions about sex,” says Agueda. With correct information hard to come by, 20 percent of 19 year olds already have babies – almost all of them drop out of school. More distressingly, pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality among teen girls in developing countries. Unsafe abortion is the third most common reason for pregnant women to die.
The goal of the infoline is to be a trusted, free source of accurate sexual health information. It’s known colloquially as the ‘KISS Infoline’ – ‘KISS’ standing for ‘Kuidadu Ita nia Saude Seksual’, meaning ‘Take Care of Your Sexual Health’ in the Tetum language – and has received thousands of calls in its first year.
“By educating young people in a friendly way, they can make informed decisions, prevent unintended pregnancies and STIs,” says Agueda. “I give young people information they otherwise wouldn’t have; information that could change their futures.”
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