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If You Give a Teen a Condom

on Feb 14, 2013 | Sexual Health Sex ed Adolescent health Condoms | 0 comments
One of the hottest debates among school administrators, parents, and politicians is sex education, specifically information about safer sex, in schools. If you give a teenager a condom, are you promoting promiscuity? Are we inviting unplanned pregnancy and STIs into teen’s lives by acknowledging the fact that they might be interested in sex?

Simply put: No. Duh.

Need proof? Last week, the New York City Health Department reported that the number of teens having sex has fallen, and of those who do have sex, the number using birth control has risen.

The facts:

  • For every 1,000 teen girls between the ages of 15-19, 72.6 got pregnant in 2010. In 2001, that number was 98.8.
  • The number of teen pregnancies decreased from 24,815 in 2001 to 19,080 in 2010.
  • Sexual activity dropped from 50.9% to 37.8% among public high school students.

Pretty impressive, right? Even more interesting is how it was done. New York City is working to increase access to birth control for teens. They distribute condoms at schools and even offer the morning-after pill in some clinics. This move is polarizing, no doubt, but it’s also effective.

Maybe the Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas should take a hint. One school planned to dispense free condoms and educational materials for Valentine’s Day, but they rescinded their participation once the media got word of it.

SISD prohibits the distribution of condoms to students and their sex ed curriculum is abstinence-based. El Paso’s teen pregnancy rate is above the state average, with 80 teen pregnancies for every 1,000 girls, and the rate of teens with chlamydia went up from 1,080 in 2008 to 1,250 in 2010. In case you missed it: These trends are headed in the wrong direction.

It might be hard to think about teens growing into sexual beings, but sexual health starts when we’re born, not when we lose our virginity. Yes, sexual health involves sex, but it also involves positive self-image and healthy relationships. It can even include abstinence! We need to encourage teens to be mindful about their bodies, to make educated decisions, and to feel safe asking questions when they have them.

So no, don’t just give teens condoms. Talk to them about sex. If you’re unsure about how to start the conversation, ASHA can help you become an Askable Parent. Questions about condoms? Visit our new website, You just might learn something new.

-Alexis Hourselt
Development Associate



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