The presence of condoms -- and to some degree, science-based sex education -- can be controversial in some school districts.
But one notable medical authority believes condoms should be cheap and readily available to teens for public health reasons. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) often issues and revises recommendations on best practices for pediatric care -- and the group feels condoms should be made available to teenagers to prevent pregnancy and disease in their populations.
The new policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) involves updated recommendations to improve rates of pregnancy and preventable disease, and is published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
Rebecca F. O'Brien, MD of the AAP, and her colleagues, note that rates of these avoidable health circumstances are still high in teenagers and can be made lower by providing condoms to kids as a failsafe.
According to the research cited, nearly half of all sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed in people under the age of 24, and 20 percent of new HIV infections in recent years were in people between the ages of 13 and 24.
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are up over the last decade in young people, and in the US, the birth rate among teens outstrips that of cohorts in comparable developed nations -- which can be reversed through condom availability.
"Unchanged from a 2001 policy statement, the AAP still recommends that adolescents be encouraged to abstain from sexual intercourse or counseled to postpone future sexual relationships. In addition, the new statement still emphasizes the important role pediatricians play in educating both boys and girls about responsible sexual activity and encouraging correct use of condoms among sexually active adolescents."
Amy Bleakley, research scientist with the Health Communication Group of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, says fallacious thinking about condoms serving as encouragement to engage in sexual activity may be leading to the unsettling numbers of STD or STI infections in teens, as well as the high birth rates:
"I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex. But really, that's not the case... Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators."
O'Brien says that low cost is not enough to get condoms in the hands of teens, and she explains:
"For teens to use them, they have to have them available, and they're not going to come in necessarily asking for them... Having them available, not just in healthcare settings is really important... Have them in the mall. They should be everywhere."
The AAP advises that parents with difficulty discussing condoms and safe sex seek guidance in speaking to their kids.