Condom Distribution Programs
written by James Weldon

The theory generally accepted in justifying the distribution of condoms to teenagers is that this will protect them against pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). However, study after study shows that this policy just does not work. In reality, handing out condoms to teenagers is a prescription for disaster. Most parents and educators do not want condoms handed out to their children or students. They fear that with the very presence of condoms, students will increase sexual activity while using condoms, which are not truly proven to be totally effective.

The promoters of handing out condoms in the public school system push condoms as being highly effective in prevention of STDs and pregnancies. They claim that condoms are tested rigorously and proven to be above the standards set by the government. The only problem with this premise is that the government of the United States is the major supporter of condom distribution in public schools. This can lead to a biased testing procedure. According to the Healthwise Handbook, "…no birth control method (except abstinence) is 100 percent effective without risk." While the condom distribution program supporters pronounce that condoms are above standards, the experts tell us they are not without risk.

Another claim from the proponents of condom distribution in public schools is that the program does not increase sexual activity and should be required for all students. In a recent response to a poll conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, those in favor of the condom distribution program said, "Some people have misinterpreted the poll." Then they go on to say "…that the increase in sexual activity can not be linked to the availability of contraceptives." The poll in question claims condoms promote sex among teens. The procondom advocates claims of the poll being misinterpreted is their only defense against this information. These people say condom distribution is to important for any student to miss, even if the parents object. Not only are those in favor of condom distribution claiming the information false, but they refuse to allow parents their rights in raising their children.

In reality most parents and educators do not want their children or students to be handed condoms while in public schools. The Improving America's School Act of 1997 requires local educational agencies to "…involve parents of children receiving services in the decision making process." According to this Act, schools are required to involve parents when making decisions that affect their children. Most parents and school leaders believe "It's up to parents, to provide contraceptives to their children." This opinion is held by not only right wing groups, but is the feeling of mainstream society. In fact only 14 percent of the American population says it is okay to provide teenagers with condoms. So where does the notion that everybody wants to supply kids with condoms come from? It definitely did not come from the majority of the public. As we can see, the public's support of the condom distribution program is not fact.

While the public does not support the condom distribution program, it is still being used. Its success is very limited due to the inability to ensure teens will use condoms all the time. In a 1988 survey conducted throughout the United States, "27 percent of low income, never married teens that relied on condoms, became pregnant due to inconsistent use of condoms." In the more personal case of Cyntria Webber("The Hot New World of Sex Education"), the availability of condoms did not prevent her from having sex without a condom and becoming pregnant. Cyntria is quoted as saying, "I just wasn't thinking about birth control at the time." According to the same source, neither was the father of her child. Teens not using condoms correctly and consistently is a major problem with the condom distribution program. As quoted in the Charlotte Observer, "A condom gives you the courage to get in the backseat, but you don't use it once you get back there." If consistent and correct use of condoms could be established among teens, then maybe the condom program would produce better results. But as we know, this is not the case.

Not only does the majority of the American population not want condom distribution programs in schools, they also say teens should receive an abstinence only message from our public schools:

More than 2/3 of both adults and teens say it is very important for high school students to be given a strong message from society that they abstain from sex.

According to these statistics, adults and teens would rather push the abstinence-based programs instead of seeing condoms distributed in public schools. That is because parents and teens both wish for students to receive a no, sex approach from society. In July, 1994, during a True Love Waits rally, 211,000 teens publicly communicated their commitment to sexual purity. Considering these two instances, we can say that people are more open to the abstinence programs than the condom distribution programs.

With the very presence of condoms in the public school system, sexual activity will increase dramatically. A study of adolescents taking part in a three-year condom promotion experiment in Switzerland showed some dramatic results. The study revealed that girls under the age of seventeen engaging in sexual activity increased by 21 percent, from 36 to an 57. The condom promotion experiment was made condoms available to all students having a desire for them. By just making condoms available, more girls started having sex. Girls are not the only ones increasing their sexual activity during condom distribution. Boys right here in America are using the program to their sexual advantage too. While this is an isolated instance, it shows the horrible possibility that can afflict us if we let it happen. In New York City, two students raped a 14 year old girl in an empty classroom abused condoms they had received from a school guidance counselor moments earlier. Again, this is an isolated instance and by no means represents everyday activity, but the possibility exists. If the condoms were not available at the school that day, the 14 year old girl may not have been raped. Condoms increase sexual activity, voluntarily or not.

A study taken at San Francisco's Balboa High School showed some disastrous results for those wanting the condom distribution program to succeed. According to the January-February 1991 issue of Family Planning Perspectives:

The number of students having sex doubled… The schools overall pregnancy rate increased by one fourth. With an increase in pregnancies, it can be assumed that there was a similar increase in student exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.

When condoms were distributed at Balboa High School, the results were the opposite of what the program set out to do. The program sought to decrease pregnancies and the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, it failed horribly. The exposure to STD's and pregnancies doubled instead of decreasing. "A Saint Paul program that was supposed to reduce annual teenage births actually caused them to spiral upward by one-third." This figure does not include the number of teens who aborted their pregnancies. Even without those figures, the increase in births with a condom distribution program intact is phenomenal.

The results were similar in a Colorado school. The first school to introduce the condom distribution program in America had an increase in pregnancy rates of one-third higher than the national average. With all these strikes against the condom distribution program from the first case to the present, why does the program still exist? In an inner city Dallas school the pregnancy rate increased 47 percent higher than the national average. When are we going to wake up and realize that condom programs just do not work the way they are supposed to?

Condoms are not totally effective in preventing pregnancy and exposure to STD's. According to Bill Meuhlenberg's "What's Wrong With Our Condom Culture?":

Medical experts do not even speak of "safe sex" instead they talk about "safer sex." That is because condoms are a Band-Aid solution, and ineffective at that. C.M. Roland editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology has said that "Rubber contraceptives are inherently unable to make sex safe… condoms have holes fifty times the size of the AIDs virus."

If medical experts see that condoms do not eliminate the chance of unwanted side effects from sex, then why push condoms onto our future? We tell kids not to smoke or drink because these activities can cause unwanted side effects. But we give teens condoms and tell them to take their chances with sex. Maybe they will get lucky and not receive an unwanted side effect. Even the inventor of the lubricated condom, Dr. Malcolm Potts, is quoted as saying, "We do not know how much protection condoms give." With the inventor of condoms questioning the reliability of his invention, we can trust that there are some serious faults.

Several studies have been done on condom failures in protecting from STDs. In Colorado one such study was performed on STD clinic patients that showed the failure of condoms. While most women did not contract gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, they did pick up chlamydia and bacterial vaginosis. These diseases infected the women being treated regardless of their partners, use of condoms. In other words they used condoms and still contacted sexually transmitted diseases. The use of condoms does not always prevent the user from developing STDs. While sometimes the condom works as intended, other times it does not stand the test. In 1992 the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that:

case control studies among women provide less convincing evidence than corresponding investigations among men that condoms protect against sexually transmitted infections.

Condoms are sexist. They will protect men more than women. This could lead to some very interesting assumptions of the studies used to promote condom distribution programs. It could be possible that their studies dealt with men rather than women, which would lead to an untrue result.

While the promoters of the condom distribution program present a logical argument, they forget to deal with the reality of the situation. In theory the distribution of condoms to teenagers looks worthy enough to accept. But in reality condoms do not effectively protect against pregnancy and STD infections. With study after study showing that this policy just does not work when put into practice, we must refrain from giving students condoms in the public schools. This would only lead to unseen disasters. The facts do not add up for condoms to be distributed in the public school system. Besides, parents and educators do not want their children and students handed condoms at school. That alone should be a hint as to what the public wants.

Works Cited

Carbone, Leslie. "Can You Trust the Village To Raise Your Children?" Huntsville Times

8 March 1998, 3.

Cates, Willard and Stone, Katherine M. " Family Planning Sexually Transmitted Diseases

and Contraceptives Choice: A Literature Update-Part 1" Family Planning Perspectives, March/April 1992, 74-95.

Charlotte Observer. "Europe's Attitude on Teen Sex: Just Right or All Wrong?"

http:/!!!!.htm Retrieved November 17, 1998.

Education Development Center. Improving America's School Act: Title I Parents

Involvement Requirements, 1997,

Hausser, Dominique and Michaud, P.A. "Does a Condom-Promoting Strategy Modify

Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents" Pediatrics, April 1994, 80-82.

Jones, Elise and Forrest, Jacqueline. "Contraceptive Failure Rates Based on the 1988

NSFG" Family Planning Perspectives, January/February 1992, 12-19.

Kantor, Leslie. "Who Decides? Parents and Comprehensive Sexuality Education"

SIECUS Report, February/March 94, 7-12.

Kemper, Donald W. Healthwise Handbook. Boise, Idaho: Healthwise Publications 1995.

Kirby, Douglas. "An Assessment of Six School-Based Clinics: Services and Potential"

Family Planning Perspectives, January/February 1991, 6-16.

Meuhlenberg, Bill. "What's Wrong With Our Condom Culture?" Retrieved Oct 7, 1998.

Natale, Jo Anna. "The Hot New World in Sex Ed" American School Board Journal,

June 1995, 18-25.

Stanley, Charles F. The Glorious Journey. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson 1996.

Sulaiman, C.R. "Sex Education In the Public Schools" The Message, Volume 20

November 1995, 6-12.