Condoms for Kids

Philadelphia has one of the highest growing rates of STDs in the US, so this year the city’s health department has decided to push birth control at earlier age—starting with 11 year olds.

Condoms for Kids

April is STD awareness month, and while I applaud health care organizations across the nation for stepping up sexual education and STD awareness programs, providing free testing, and making health care facilities more accessible, I find myself a bit conflicted with Philadelphia Health Department’s latest campaign against the spread of STDs.

In 2008, according to the Philadephia Inquirer, the rate of new HIV infection cases in Philadephia was five times higher than the national average (50 percent higher than in New York City). While many mistakenly associate the spread of HIV with the gay community or intravenous drug users, more than  half of the HIV infections in Philadephia that year were caused by heterosexual contact. In many of these cases the infected individual was unaware of his or her HIV status.

In 2011, Philadelphia retains one of the highest rates of STDs in the US, and the Philadelphia Health Department has decided to focus more attention on sexual education for pre-teens with the new online campaign at TakeControlPhilly.com. While the information on the site is nothing new as far as communicating facts about STDs like risks, symptoms and prevention, the provision of free condoms by mail (in addition to a list of sites within the city for free condom pickup) for 11-19 year olds has stirred up some controversy.

So here’s where I have to take a step back and clear my head, for some strange reason, I really do not want to think about 11-year-olds with condoms. Because 11-year-olds with condoms are 11-year-olds having sex. And that’s not OK with me.

But then again, it’s not the condoms that are making kids have sex. Being educated and aware about the risk of STDs and STD prevention isn’t a catalyst for pre-teen promiscuity. It’s a response to the behavior that’s happening whether parents want to acknowledge it or not. And while I agree that sex should not be encouraged among youth, sex education is not about sexual encouragement, it’s about exploring smarter and healthier ways to be intimate with your partner.

It’s not up to government to provide youth with a conscience and the parental support they may be lacking, but the government does have a responsibility to maintain the safety of their citizens, including sexually active pre-teens.