Sexually transmitted infections among high schoolers are on the rise, while condom usage among these students is declining, according to a recent study published by the United States Library of Medicine. To combat this problem, we urge Palo Alto High School’s Wellness Center to offer condoms and related safe sex products to students free of charge.
In 2019, Verde published an editorial proposing this change in response to concerns that sexually active Paly students not using contraception were putting themselves and their partners at risk for STIs and unwanted pregnancies. The staff believed that Paly should be conscious of the sexual safety and health of students and offer these products.
However, nothing has changed since the publishing of the editorial. Paly still does not offer any safe-sex products and recent data shows that those past concerns are still warranted. According to a 2022 anonymous, opt-in survey conducted by Verde of 237 Paly students from January 26 to January 31, 2022, 40.4% of students who engaged in sexual activities did so without protection.
Stigma and cost are two major factors that deter students from using protection, both of which could be solved by making condoms available in the Wellness Center.
40.4% of students who engaged in sexual activities did so without protection.
For students embarrassed about purchasing condoms at a drugstore, a simple trip to the office would allow them to obtain contraception discreetly. More importantly, condom availability programs (CAPs) reduce the financial burden of these products.
Such programs have empirically worked, which is why we strongly urge their implementation at Paly. A study by Springer Link found that schools with CAPs see more students engaging in safe sex practices without more sexual activity.
Paly’s current policy regarding student sexual health is insufficient. While we appreciate Paly teaching students how to safely use condoms, it is irrelevant if they cannot access them in the first place. The availability of condoms, coupled with comprehensive sex education, would provide students with both the tools and knowledge necessary to safely engage in sexual activities.
“CAPs … recognize that … students who choose to engage in sexual behavior … should be able to make informed decisions and do so safely,” Paly Wellness Outreach Officer Whitney Aquino said. “I see it as a harm-reduction model [that] reduces barriers to healthcare.”
Detractors counter that CAPs will lead to an increase in sexual activity — as students who currently are not sexually active will become so if given contraceptives. However, numerous studies disprove this and contend that those who want to be sexually active already are, which is why CAPs have not led to an increase in sexual activity.
The availability of condoms would help to curb the rising number of student STIs and promote safer sexual practices here at Paly. We urge Paly to become a part of the solution and offer safe-sex products to students.