Condoms should be made available in high schools for teens who are having sex, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"If you look at the number of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in this country, 25 percent of them are in the adolescent population," says Dr. David Kaplan, chair of the committee that issued the report, released today, the academy's latest to physicians and health educators about adolescence and sexual behavior.
"This is a major public health issue that needs to be addressed," says Kaplan, who also is chief of adolescent medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.
Condom Distribution Does Not Increase Sexual Activity
The pediatricians say studies show the availability of condoms does not increase sexual activity but can decrease unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
"In the interest of public health, restrictions and barriers to condom use should be removed," the academy, the leading organization of pediatricians, says.
Kaplan acknowledges some religious communities do not favor condom distribution in high schools, preferring abstinence until marriage. The academy is also recommending that abstinence be encouraged.
But Kaplan says each community should assess what is happening in its back yard.
Communities Are Different
"For those communities in which there are a lot of STDs condom distribution should be looked at as an important public health intervention," Kaplan says.
While condom usage is rising among teens, Kaplan says, the STD rate is still too high in this population.
"Unless a condom is used every time it will not provide protection," Kaplan says. "Teens are not always consistent with condom use."
Condoms Not Completely Effective
Condoms do not prevent all new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and human papilloma virus (the virus implicated in genital warts and cervical cancer), but having them available in an educational environment raises awareness about risk avoidance, Kaplan says.
HPV and herpes can be transmitted even with condom usage because lesions may be present at other parts of the genital area besides the tissue that is protected by a condom, Kaplan says.
The recommendations are published in the latest issue of medical journal Pediatrics.