Twelve-year-old? Check. STD hot spot? Check. Mailing address in? Check. Condoms now on their way.
These are the necessary steps to get mail order condoms at TeenSource.org, a website launched in 2001 and developed by the California Family Health Council. It received national coverage when, just this month, it began providing confidential mail-order condoms free of charge to any resident of California between the ages of 12 and 19 in areas with a high percentage of sexually transmitted diseases among teens, deemed STD hot spots. These include Fresno and San Diego counties, Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Kern County, and selected areas of San Francisco.
“If you’re having sex, protect yourself and your partner by using a condom every time. Enter your info below to find out how you can get free condoms near you” state instructions printed on the site.
This effort was instigated by a recent rise in STDs among California teens. According to the webpage, there were 42,504 cases of chlamydia in teens aged 15 to 19 in California in 2011, as well as nearly 5,000 cases of gonorrhea.
The project involves a two-pronged strategy, with an individual home mailing system and condom access sites where clinics receive regular shipments of condoms to give to teens.
This increase in the availability of condoms for teens plays an important role in the sexual health of California youth. While pregnancy rates may be down, STDs are on the rise, indicating youth don’t understand that condoms are the only form of protection that prevent STDs. As a state, we have began making birth control methods more available to teens: the pill, Plan B, and other forms of pregnancy prevention that do not protect against STDs.
The most feared outcome of unprotected sex used to be pregnancy. Recent laws lowering the minimum age to purchase Plan B, along with a rise in the use of the pill by teens, show that this outcome is being addressed with preventative as well as after-the-fact measures, diluting the fear.
However, the simultaneous rise of STDs creates a new fear. Teens, freed from the threat of unwanted pregnancy, are now less concerned about using physical protection. As a response to this fear, the actions taken by TeenSource.org should be the first of many promoting, not pregnancy prevention, but STD prevention.
Since the California sponsored program began, backlash from parents and others say it is is an infringement on parenting and lifestyle rights, and a misuse of taxpayer’s money. The program currently runs on a $5,000 annual budget supported by federal tax dollars. Arguments from parents go further to claim that their children don’t even know what condoms are, saying this step is opening a door to sex, drugs, and general corruption. They maintain that they know what forms of protection are best.
“Abstinence is an even better way [form of protection] because it works every time it’s practiced,” commented a California pastor in The Christian Post. This comment does not, however, address the statistics. Parents need to face the fact that if they are not going to provide protection to their sexually active children, the state will.