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Should high school students be given free condoms?

Editor's Note: The following submitted does not reflect the views and opinions of TheBayNet.com

Loveville, MD - Picture a 14-year old boy coming home with a condom. He would probably naively tell his parent, “Hey mom/dad, I got this from school. You may keep it in case you need it”. The parent would feel embarrassed. However, this would probably be an avenue to exploit rather than lambast this kid. Whichever way the situation is looked at, embarrassment is nothing compared to the opportunity presented to be able to talk to this child about sex or enroll him in a sex education program.

Teens have a right to sex education, which includes the opportunity to learn about correct use of contraceptives and condoms. Why then should these condoms not be provided at the place where they spend almost half of their time? Raging controversy continues in the United States and other countries about whether teenagers in high schools should be provided with free condoms. Parents are concerned that sex education and condom use could encourage teens to engage in sex. It is a pity that this view holds despite the fact that many studies in the United States show that teenagers are more engaged in unprotected sex than grownups.

According to Baldwin and Holgate, gonorrhea rates were higher among females ages 15 to 19 and males  ages 20 to 24 than among other age groups. The overall U.S. rate was 129 per 100,000 people among the 15 to 19-year-old women. Such startling statistics call for a sustainable action. There are some people in the society who encourage abstinence as the only measure of discouraging unwanted pregnancies among teens. This is the absolute truth. However, not every youth belongs to a religion that ascribe to beliefs that promote abstinence. Besides, teenagers can decide whether they want to engage in sex or not. It would be unfair to take this right of choice from these youths with raging hormones. If one chooses to engage in sex, he or she should be aware of the risks and means of reducing the possibility of getting infected or pregnant. This is another reason to allow free condom distribution in high schools.

Peer pressure is a destructive phenomenon in the teenage years of any individual. Most people think that teens engage in sex so as to be popular among their peers. The contrary is true as such teens are regarded as “easy” or “loose” by their colleagues. This status holds long even after high school. Therefore, no teen wants to be regarded as loose, and this fear could encourage students to avoid sex until they at least complete high school. Therefore, peer pressure can be regarded as a catalyst for teens to make sound, reasonable and informed decisions about their sexuality and life in general. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes that teenagers exposed to sex materials are twice as likely to be involved in sexual activities. However, these teens are maturing fast to make decisions. Providing free condoms and sex education would lessen the burden of uncertainty when making such decisions.

Sexually active teens will have sex whether it is safe or not. If condoms were made
available in school, they would most probably use one. A program conducted in a Los Angeles County High School by providing free condoms to students showed a decline in unprotected sex. Additionally, the program showed that this move did not encourage a rise in sexual activity, but rather the use of condoms among males rose from 37 percent to 50 percent. Those who reportedly used condoms for the first time increased from 46 percent to 56 percent. Therefore, availability of condoms in high school would decrease the number of pregnancies and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. If similar programs were administered in all high schools, there would be every chance that so many teens are protected.

The challenge of sexuality among teens is bad enough. The unavailability of condoms, which would subject them to more risk of unplanned pregnancies or STDs, would even worsen the situation. Sex decisions are a major cause of distress to people of all ages. Why would then a teen be prevented from acquiring knowledge about all the options they have about sex and sexuality? Teens should be left to decide to use a condom and save them from the troubles associated with unprotected sex.

A school has a very major role to play in sexuality of teens. Schools are increasingly
providing sex education. Sex education involves lessons about risks of sex and the use of contraceptives to minimize these risks. Issuing free condoms is part of this education. Parents, teachers, courts and students themselves have differing opinions on the distribution of free condoms. The bottom line is that dissemination of correct information and giving free condoms in schools potentially enables teenagers to engage in safe sex. Schools need to offer all there is for sex education to their students indiscriminately and comprehensively. Teachers and peer guidance counselors in schools should talk to their students, avoid judging them and allow them to share their concerns about their sexuality freely. They also should take part in distribution of free condoms to the students. They are probably afraid to speak to their parents. This leaves them stranded and they should not, therefore, feel pushed away by their teachers in school as well.

Providing free condoms in school is part of the institution’s duty to guard students’
health. This is a timely and perfect response in the wake of massive unregulated sex information available to teens and epidemic of a number of sexually transmitted diseases. Apart from condom issuance, students also should be offered complimentary, private and voluntary testing, to determine whether they are infected with any sexual diseases.

In Philadelphia, such test results and prevalence rates of such diseases gave clear indication that it is indeed correct to give condoms in schools. The city's school officials further state that all parents informed about distribution of condoms in school did not call to object to the move. More schools are giving free condoms to school students as a result of this understanding among health providers, teachers and parents on condoms.

The question of whether to distribute free condoms in high schools needs to be treated with utter rationality and care. The teachers should be supported by parents to run such a program. Health providers also need to come in and offer their valuable resources and knowledge to students. This is, therefore, a matter that affects the whole society and all stakeholders need to be engaged fully to come up with sustainable solutions. 

To conclude, teenagers should not have sex before marriage. Some of them will be
guided by certain values and choose to wait. The few that chose to have sex are in danger of STD infections and pregnancy. This calls for a tangible solution by schools to provide protection. School principles need to stop worrying about whether it is morally acceptable or not to provide free condoms to students. Instead, they should look at the facts showing that condoms reduce the risks of teenage pregnancies and sexual diseases. These teenagers should be provided with viable alternatives to abstinence. 

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of TheBayNet.com management.

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