California Sends Teenagers Free Condoms in the Mail to Curb Rising STDs and Promote Safe-Sex

A recent report by ABC News about a state-sponsored program that has been distributing free condoms to teenagers in the Bay Area through the mail has raised a lot of controversy. 

California Family Health Council, a non-profit organization, and the state Department of Public Health worked together to launch this program in an effort to lower the increasing STD rates amongst teens in California. Although some parents have reason to worry that this program may make it easier for teens to become more sexually active, parents shouldn’t undermine the benefits of providing teenagers with sufficient access to condoms. The mail-order condom program promotes safe-sex and helps teenagers lower their risk of contracting venereal diseases.

Even though the teen pregnancy rate has lowered in California, STD cases, particularly in chlamydia and gonnorea, have risen among teens 15 to 19 years old.Reports from Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties show there were an estimated 1.12 million new cases of STDs among teens in California in 2005. The Center for Disease Control found that 1 in every 4 women ages 14 to 19 have had an STD at any given time — and these are only statistics from reported cases. Because the mail-order condom program focuses on counties with the highest teen STD rates, currently, only youth in San Francisco, Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Kern counties are able to place orders online. 

The alarming statistics are a result of barriers such as embarrassment, confidentiality and affordability. The Condom Access Project breaks these barriers, allowing youth to order a package of 10 condoms, lube, and a health brochure that is mailed to them in a nondescript yellow envelope. All teens will have to do is log onto TeenSource.org and place their orders. They are limited to one package of condoms per month. The website also provides its visitors with helpful information on birth control, STDs, clinic locations, and advice through blogs and a social networking tool called The Hookup. The Hookup provides weekly information and advice on sex and life through text, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and the Common Feed List.

Abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases altogether, but parents cannot ignore the daunting statistics that prove teenagers are not only having sex, but unsafe sex that’s endangering their health. The Public Health Department has an obligation to educate youth and make attempts to reverse these statistics, and the Condom Access Project is making this possible with a way for more teenagers to have access to condoms and practice safe sex. The health brochure that is delivered along with the condoms and various other resources on TeenSource.org makes it clear that this program wants our youth to make smart and healthy decisions about their bodies. 

Teen birth rates are currently at a record low in the U.S. and it is because of resources like this and Planned Parenthood Federation of America among other establishments that more American teenagers are avoiding parenting at an early age. A number of teens must also learn and practice ways to prevent and lower their risk of contracting venereal diseases. The frighteningly high teen STD rates can only change with increased access to condoms and knowledge of sexual health. This will additionally continue to keep teen pregnancy rates low as well. Depending on funding, this program could expand access for youth in other counties and I can only hope it will for the sake of the future of our country.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Sifat Azad

Sifat is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Kingston University in London as the first-ever recipient of the Hilary Mantel Creative Writing Scholarship Award. She is a CUNY Baccalaureate graduate with dual concentrations in Literature and Creative Writing. Her piece, "Covered," was featured in John Jay's Finest and her short story, "Brownstone," was published in J Journal: New Writing on Justice.

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