With an extremely high percentage of sexually active teens, the United States holds the title of the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and abortion among teens in North America and Europe. Concerned parents, educators, and healthcare workers cannot decide what to do about this alarming problem, caused by unprotected sexual intercourse. Condom distribution in high schools represents an effective way to protect sexually active teenagers from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Availability of condoms in high schools does not increase rates of teenage sexual activity, but rather increases condom use among already sexually active teenagers.
Among American teenagers, condom unavailability ranks as the number one obstacle for safe sex (“Briefing” 5). A survey conducted by the Center for Population Options Teen Council examined the accessibility of contraception in drugstores and convenience stores in Washington, D.C. and found that: “One-third of the stores kept condoms behind the counter, forcing teens to ask for them. Only thirteen percent of the stores had signs that clearly marked where contraceptives were shelved. Adolescent girls asking for assistance encountered resistance or condemnation from store clerks forty percent of the time” (Francoeur 97). For teens, these barriers are significant obstacles to contraceptive access. Condom availability programs within schools eases access and communicates the important message that society prefers protection to disease, teenage pregnancy, and death (“Briefing” 5).
School-based condom availability programs do not increase rates of teenage sexual activity, as many opponents of high school condom distribution argue, but do have a significant effect on condom use (Raab 49). M. Raab’s article in Family Planning Perspectives argues that making condoms available in high schools does not increase teenage rates of sexual activity, but does result in higher rates of condom use among sexually active students. According to a study of nearly thirteen thousand public high school students in New York City and Chicago, condom distribution in school does make a difference.
Data were collected in 1994 from seven thousand students from twelve randomly selected New York City public high school and six thousand students from ten Chicago public high schools. New York was chosen for the study because its Board of Education implemented one of the first school condom distribution programs in 1991. Chicago was chosen because it has a large, unified urban school system similar to New York’s: Its public school are ethnically diverse, have a high dropout rate and provide students with education about HIV and AIDS, but not condoms (Raab 48)
Sexually active students in New York reported a significantly higher rate of condom use in their last sexual encounter than did their counterparts in Chicago. High-risk students in New York City, those who reported having three or more sexual partners in the past six months, were almost twice as likely as those in Chicago to have used a condom at last intercourse. Nevertheless, researchers conclude, that high school condom distribution programs can decrease teenagers risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (Raab 49).
Over three million sexually active teenagers are infected with a sexually transmitted disease each year, representing one-fifth of all sexually transmitted disease cases in the nation. The American Medical Association estimates that one out of four teenagers will contract a sexually transmitted disease before high school graduation. Left untreated, some sexually transmitted diseases can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility (Francoeur 95). Furthermore, adolescents have the same susceptibility to HIV as adults. From 1990 to 1992, the number of youth ages thirteen to twenty-four who were diagnosed with AIDS increased by an alarming seventy-seven percent (Dunn 1). Indisputably, unprotected intercourse puts teenagers at the risk of suffering the array of sometimes-extreme negative consequences. Aside from abstinence, condoms, when properly used, embody the most effective method for preventing pregnancy and infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted disease!
Condom availability, coupled with health, sex education, HIV/AIDS, and pregnancy education program can effectively thwart the effects of teenage sexual activity. School condom availability programs supported by comprehensive sex education help students gain the skill necessary for successful safe sex with the use of condoms.
Despite fears to the contrary, research clearly demonstrates that students in schools, which make condoms available, are no more likely to be sexually experienced than students in schools without this service. In fact, at some schools that distribute condoms, the average age of first intercourse was older than at schools without contraception availability (Francoeur 98-99).
High rates of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among adolescents are not caused by condom availability in schools. No single approach can eliminate the incidence of these complex problems. Society must begin to weave a safety net services, care and education for teens. Making condoms available in schools is one essential element in what must be a community-wide response to the crisis of adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and the threat of AIDS (“Briefing” 12). Commenting on condom availability, M. Raab said, “The fear that making condoms available to high school students appears to be unfounded. School-based condom availability is a low-cost, harmless addition to high school HIV/AIDS prevention and education that deserves policy consideration.”
“Briefing Paper on Condom Availability in Schools.” Advocates for Youth
not dated: 1-20.
Dunn, Stacey. “Reading, Writing, and Reproduction” MSNBC On-line 20 March 2001
20 November 2001.
Francoeur, Robert T. Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in
Human Sexuality. Guilford, Connecticut: Dushkin Publishing Group/Brown &
Benchmark Publishers, Copyright 1996.
Raab, M. “Effectiveness of Condom Distribution in High School.” Family Planning
Perspectives. 30 no. I (1998): 48-49.
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