Young Vietnamese people need a better understanding of sexual health and their rights in order to ensure safer sex and a higher quality of life, national and international experts said at a recent meeting in Hanoi .

Linette Belo, representative from Dutch organisation Rutgers WPF, said that access to youth friendly services and comprehensive sex education contributes a great deal to the sexual and reproductive health of young people.

Vietnam already has policies to improve young people's reproductive health, especially for vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV/AIDS, people with disabilities and emigrants, said Le Quang Binh, director of Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment.

"Yet people still find it hard to access sexual health information, education and services," he said.

The average age of sexual intercourse among Vietnamese youth is higher than the world's average, but the country sees a higher rate of sex-related problems including sexual violence and issues of mental health, he added.

For example, in 2006, abortion in Vietnam hit 35 percent, 9 percent higher than the world's figure.

A representative from Hanoi 's Health Department, Dieu Hien, said that because of long-lasting norms and misguided understanding, the majority of Vietnamese still hesitate to talk about sex, considering it personal business, which poses communication challenges.

Even parents are not willing to talk to their children about it, she said.

Yet progress is evident when comparing norms to 20 years ago, when a topic like condoms was still taboo, according to Hoa Huu Van, deputy head of Family Department under Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

"Open and respectful discussions of sexual matters could encourage healthy attitudes surrounding sexuality and positive relationships," according to Binh.

Vietnam is now designing a project on pre-marriage education that is expected to pave the way to the success of Vietnam 's family strategy for 2020-30.

The six NGOs including Rutgers WPF, Institute for Development and Community Health, Institute for Studies of Society, Economic and Environment, Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development, Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Pop, Research Centre for Family Health and Community Development have joined together to form a sexual health alliance to create the space of more discussion and a better understanding of sex related issues.

The organisations jointly celebrated the World Sexual Health Day (September 4) for the first time in Vietnam , focusing on the voices of young people regarding their sexual health and rights.

About 6,000 young people each day around the world are newly infected with HIV/AIDS, 45 percent of whom are under the age of 24. Pregnancy and birth related problems are the main causes of death for young people in age group of 15-19. Full access to contraceptives can prevent unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal deaths. /.