The American Academy of Pediatrics is asking for parents, educators, community leaders and organizers, as well as doctors to take a stand and assure that condoms are more readily available to teenagers.
“Although abstinence of sexual activity is the most effective method for the prevention of pregnancy and STIs, sexually transmitted infections, young people should be prepared for the time when they will become sexually active,” several doctors wrote in a policy statement , an update from their 2001 position, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, Pediatrics.
“When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy and many STIs, including HIV,” they said.
In the policy statement, the pediatricians’ organization recommends removing restrictions and lifting the barriers that often prevent teenagers from accessing condoms.
“Parents should be talking to their teens about sex,” the doctors say, “and pediatricians can help.”
The paper’s authors, The Committee on Adolescence, encourage their colleagues to provide condoms in their offices and support increasing access in the community. They also recommend providing condoms in schools, in addition to comprehensive sexual education.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American youth who use condoms hit it’s record high of almost 60% a decade ago, and has stalled since then. The numbers even declined among some demographics.
A recent study released by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that almost half of the students who are sexually active abstain from using condoms. Other reports have shown that while some teenagers are likely to use a condom the first time they have sex, the consistency of condom use severely declined each time thereafter.
While the teen pregnancy rate in the United States has been on the decline, the number of newly reported cases of sexually transmitted infections has been rapidly increasing.
In 2011, the number of babies born to girls between the ages of 15 and 19 was at a record low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 329, 797 babies were born for a teen birth rate, live birth per every 1000 women, of 31.3 for this particular age group, an 8% decline from the previous year.
Still sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, continue to be problematic for this age group. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly half of the 20 million new cases of sexualy transmitted infections reported occur among Americans beteween the ages of 15 and 24.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea is contracted at four times the rate of the general population for this particular age group and those in their early 20s have the highest reported cases of syphilis and HIV. Young men and women are more likely than older people to report having no sex in the past year, yet those who are having sex are more likely to have multiple partners, which increases the risk of STDs.
Health officials all across the United States are pushing to bring awareness to the rising rates of sexually transmitted infections, concerned that teenagers are not understanding the severeness and lasting consequences of their actions.
Sex education is more in-depth than it was for previous generations, however a 2012 report published by Guttmacher Institute revealed that while nearly 90% of high schools are teaching students about abstaining from sex and sexually transmitted infections, fewer than 60% actually provided lessons about different contraceptive methods.
Some organizers and educators have already taken the American Academy of Pediatrics advice to heart.
The California Access Project, run by the California Health Council makes condoms readily available for kids as young as 12, through their online, tax-payer funded delivery service. Teens in seven California counties, including San Diego and Fresno, can confidentially request a pack of condoms online, up to once a month. The package also includes lubricant and educational material.
Among 15-19 year-olds, San Diego County ranks second in the number of reported chlamydia cases in California, and ranks sixth in gonorrhea cases. The state is rampant with STDs; syphilis cases zoomed 18% from 2010 to 2011, Chlamydia rose 5% and gonorrhea rose 1.5%.
In New York, where 1 in every 4 teenagers is diagnosed with a new case of a sexually transmitted infection everyday, high schools are required to provide Health Resource Rooms where students can access free condoms and other health information.
The goal of the resource rooms is to encourage high school students to make responsible decisions about behaviors that can lead to infections or the virus that causes AID.The Condom Availability Program is kept completely confidential and only requires students to provide their student ID numbers, not their names.
Boston, Philadelphia and cities across the country are also jumping on board to offer free condoms to teens. Countries world-wide have also engaged in similar programs to prevent to pregnancy and decrease the disease the rate.
In New Zealand, teenagers as young as 13 are being provided with “12-trip passes to safer sex”, in an effort to decrease the number of abortions and teenage pregnancies.
A plan, in which adolescents are given a bus-pass-style card entitling them to free packets of condoms, has been devised in Hawke’s Bay, and could soon be picked up nationwide.
Social embarrassment and the cost of condoms were identified by the region’s health leaders as factors contributing towards unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
The Condom Card plan is being hailed by Auckland University’s adolescent health research group, which says contraceptive use among youth has remained stagnant at less than 60 per cent for more than 10 years.
New Zealand’s teen pregnancy rate is the second highest in the developed world, with the latest census data showing more than 6000 teenagers became pregnant last year.
In a press release the research group states, “At present, young people can see their GPs for part-funded prescriptions for condoms. School health nurses and some youth clinics provide them for free, but not in all areas. A packet of condoms costs between $12 and $20.
In Hawke’s Bay, more than 40 school counselors, public health nurses, youth workers and two pharmacists are now trained Condom Card practitioners. Anyone aged between 13 and 24 can see them for a brief talk on safe sex, including advice on consent, and where to access health services, before being issued with a card.”
Each time a patient visit a pharmacist, their condom card is clipped and they receive a free packet of condoms.