Philadelphia is using common sense–the city’s fighting a growing STD epidemic among teens by installing free condom dispensers within its high schools.
The city has had huge problems with STD rates among teenagers, so the move to put in free condom dispensers at the nurse’s offices in 22 schools in Philadelphia is smart. (Obviously, abstinence is the only way to 100 percent prevent STDs, but that’s not that realistic–and it’s a lot more effective for sex education to teach not just abstinence, but also safe sex.)
Philadelphia students can also get free STD testing in their schools, which is so important when you consider that 5 percent of students who have been tested were positive for STDs including HIV. That may not sound like a lot, but think of it this way: That’s 1 in 20 people, so there’s probably one in your homeroom! That sounds like a ton more, right? So scary! In fact, the free STD testing is what led to the free condom program. The results were so dire and so dangerous that Philadelphia officials felt they needed to take action. 1 in 4 people infected with HIV in Philadelphia is between 13 and 24 years old, and the city has recently seen chlamydia and gonorrhea rates up by almost 50 percent!
“Less than 60 percent of kids who are sexually active report having used condoms the last time they had sex,” Philly’s health commissioner Dr. Donald F. Schwarz told the Daily News. “We want to get to that 40 percent who haven’t used a condom.”
The City of Brotherly Love isn’t the only one to promote safe sex with free condoms in high schools. 418 other schools nationwide, including in New York City, are encouraging sexually active students to always use a condom and are eliminating the potential embarrassment of a trip to CVS by giving them out for free. Students can even order free condoms online if they don’t want to go to the office. Springfield, Massachusetts even made headlines when they released free condoms not just in high school, but also middle school–giving contraception for free to people as young as 11 years old.
Dr. Schwarz even said that the STD rate is dropping. “For the first time in four years, we saw a decline in STIs among adolescents by 5 to 6 percent,” he said.
There is a catch to the Philadelphia free condom program, though. If a student’s parents opt out of it, nurses can’t hand over contraception to them. Still, even if parents think condom dispensers will encourage people to have sex, that’s not really the case. The Center for Disease Control reports that condom distribution programs like the ones in Philadelphia not only increase condom use and lower STD rates for young adults, but they also actually delay sexual activity–so it also in a way encourages you to be both safe and maybe wait on having sex.
Sounds like a win-win to us!
Do you think a free condom distribution program like the ones in Philadelphia and New York City are a good idea? Do you think free condom programs are a good way to promote safe sex and prevent STDs? Do you think a free condom program encourages young adults to have sex? Do you have any other ideas on how to lower the Philadelphia STD rate? Tell us in the comments!