In a trend toward staying connected with youth, the American Academy of Pediatrics is asking communities, educators, parents and doctors to step up in making condoms more available to teens. Acknowledging that once teens reach puberty, most will likely become sexually active, the AAP adds contraceptive availability to education about dangers of sexual activity in the hopes of keeping teens healthy. A summary of the policy statement was reported by CNN Health.
"Although abstinence of sexual activity is the most effective method for 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 published Monday in the organization's journal Pediatrics. "When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy and many STIs, including HIV."
2011 marked the lowest teen pregnancy (ages 15-19) record in many years, but the incidence of reported STI’s is rising. The CDC estimates that people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for half of the 20 million new STI cases that are reported each year.
The policy statement, an update from the AAP’s outdated 2001 position, recommends removing restrictions and barriers that often prevent teens from accessing condoms. Parents should be talking to their teens about sex, the doctors say, and pediatricians can help. Some states have already started the process. The fairly new Condom Access Project allows teens in seven California counties to confidentially request a pack of condoms online, up to once a month.
In New York City, high schools are required to provide Health Resource Rooms where students can access free condoms and other health information. Boston, Philadelphia and other cities are also jumping on board to offer free condoms to teens.
Research has shown that sex education programs did not increase sexual activity in teens. Some studies have found that it may delay the onset or amount of sexual activity as teens face the reality of becoming young parents. Some courses require teens to “parent” a pseudo infant for 24 hours. The life like doll is preprogrammed to imitate the sleep, eating, crying, and diaper cycles of an infant so teens can experience firsthand what new parenthood entails.
In the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (the latest data available), 47.4% of students reported having sexual intercourse at least once in their lifetime; 33.7% were sexually active at the time of the survey. Approximately 60% of the sexually active students reported using a condom during their last sexual experience - an increase of 14% since 1991.
Whether the new policy becomes a reality nationwide remains a question, as does its effectiveness. Questions remain about teens turning to doctors for sexual advice (most consult friends or the internet), why parents are abdicating their responsible role in educating their children about life issues, and if free condoms will be used or used responsibly.
Click here for ideas about how sexually active young people can stay safe.
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