February is National Condom Month, and I’m celebrating this year by outlining my top five reasons why we should have condoms available in every Federal Way high school.
Let’s start with some facts.
• Area statistics mimic national ones in terms of percentage of students who have sex in high school (over 50 percent) — and that those numbers are lower in ninth grade than they are in 12th grade. More than half our high school students are having sexual intercourse, and many more than half of our 12th graders are.
• While approximately 80 percent of high school teachers in King County say they teach about how to obtain condoms, only 12 percent of high schools in the county provide condoms to their students, according to a King County Sexual Health Education Summary by Brett Niessen.
• One in two people contracts a sexually transmitted infection before age 25, according to yesmeanstest.org.
Reason No. 1: If we want teens to use them, we need to make them available.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Adolescence issued a policy statement saying that schools are a good place to make condoms available. They also encourage accompanying this with comprehensive sexuality education in order to be the most effective.
Reason No. 2: Giving out condoms can delay the onset of sexual behavior.
There have been multiple studies that show that teens who have access to condoms and who also take comprehensive sexuality education begin having sex later than peers who don’t. Don’t believe me? You can go here to find a list of studies in this area that have been done by the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Guttmacher Institute, the United Nations, and the Institute of Medicine, to name a few: advocatesforyouth.org/publications/1487.
Reason No. 3: Contraception use decreases teen pregnancy.
This may seem like a “duh” statement. However, the Journal of Adolescent Health published a study showing that the amount of sex teens had between 2007 and 2013 stayed the same, yet births for 15- to 19-year-olds dropped 36 percent. Abortion has been declining as well — which means fewer teens are getting pregnant. More contraceptive use is what accounted for the reduction in pregnancies. Condoms are easy to have available and to use as a contraceptive method.
Reason No. 4: One in two people contract a sexually transmitted infection before age 25.
Aside from abstinence, condoms remain the most effective method to prevent sexually transmitted infections from spreading in sexually active people. Having condoms available also provides adults with opportunities for more conversations with youth about sexual activity, using condoms with not only vaginal sex but also with oral and anal sex, getting tested and consent. Being able to talk about these topics creates healthier relationships for everyone.
Reason No. 5: They are cost effective.
Condoms are inexpensive. They are easy to use. They prevent STIs and pregnancy. Teen pregnancy, on the other hand, costs $9.4 billion annually in costs to U.S. taxpayers. These costs include costs associated with an increase in health care, foster care, incarceration (rates are higher for kids of teen parents), and lower education among teen mothers, which leads to lower income and lost tax revenue. Only about 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, making it harder for them to obtain decent jobs to care for their children. In addition, eight of 10 teen fathers do not marry the mother of their child, and absent fathers pay less than $800 annually for child support.
Providing condoms, education and open conversation are proven ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among teenagers, affecting their future in many positive ways. Isn’t that what we want for every high school student in Federal Way?
For more information or resources, go to www.YesMeansTest.org or www.ashasexualhealth.org/national-condom-month.
Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. All opinions are her own. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.