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by Fatafehi Lilika Mafi, Tongan Chronicle

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Oct. 123, 2002 – Tongan Chronicle/AIDSTOK)---Teen-age pregnancy is rising in Tonga and yet parents are still not prepared to discuss the issue with their children.

In Tonga, teen-age pregnancies increased by 5 percent from 1998 to 1999 and by 7 percent in 2000. More than 140 mothers are under 20 years of age.

According to Iemaima Havea, director of the Tonga Family Health Association (TFHA), most young mothers who come to the center falsely declare that they are married so they would not be categorized as unmarried.

The high rate of teen-age pregnancy in Tonga, she said, occurs because most teen-agers are ignorant of the consequences of unprotected sex.

"I'll do it...it won't happen," is often heard at the center.

Records from the TFHA show that 45 teen-agers between the ages of 16-19 this year alone visited the center for help because it offers privacy. Most are single mothers.

Some came in for a pregnancy test and requested for an abortion at the same time. Some visited for information about using contraceptive methods but they were often too late, said Vika ‘Aonga, a senior health adviser for TFHA.

Members of the public are free to use the clinic for advice on pregnancy and any other reproductive health problems.

Today, more people are visiting the center and most teen-agers are using contraceptives, in the hopes of avoiding problems in the future.

Those with problems are from broken families, said Havea, adding that some are pregnant to married men and request abortions because they are scared of their parents finding out.

Many are afraid to use the clinic because of the cultural norm that frowns on sex before marriage.

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