Students at high schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, returned from Christmas break to find a “gift” from the school district: dispensers at the nurse's office filled with free condoms. Philly.com reported that the condom dispensers were placed in the 22 area high schools where students supposedly have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The free condoms are part of a “pilot program” the city is pursuing to address “an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease in adolescents in Philadelphia,” according to Donald Schwarz, the city's deputy mayor for “health and opportunity.” He said that since April of last year, Philadelphia has distributed some four million condoms, which the city claims has led to a drop in STD rates. Schwarz said that 25 percent of new cases of HIV are teens, and that concern justifies giving out free condoms to kids. “If a teenager wants to use a condom, they should have access to a condom,” Philly.com quoted the deputy mayor as saying.
The news site noted that at least a dozen Philadelphia high schools “already dispense free condoms. And the Health Department also provides them at city high schools when they go in to test teens for STDs, as they do every year voluntarily with a parent's consent.”
Schwarz called the pilot program a “logical” next step, and the city's mayor, Michael Nutter, concurred. “I support the policy strongly,” he declared. “This is a serious public health matter.” Nutter justified the program by saying that the “reality is — any of our teenagers, regardless of what adults think, are engaged in sexual activities.” He added that “discussion about whether or not they should be sexually active is an appropriate discussion, but if they are, then we need to make sure they're engaged in safe sexual practices.”
Before the start of the program, Philadelphia school district officials sent an e-mail to school nurses explaining that the condom dispensers would be located “just inside the doorway near the entrance to your office,” but the nurses would not be responsible for distribution.
One school nurse, Peggy Devine, was quoted by Philly.com as predicting that some parents would be less than thrilled about their children having free access to condoms. “I just can't imagine the parents of a 14-year-old being happy with this,” said Devine.
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