Through a new state-sponsored initiative called the Condom Access Project, California children living in areas with high STI and teen birth rates will soon be able to get condoms — and instructions on how to use them — delivered for free to their doorsteps after ordering them online. The project is intended to stem the rising tide of teen births and sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis in the Golden State.
The website for the service — TeenSource.org — includes information on teen mental and physical health support services, resources for family planning, and maps of facilities that conduct STI testing. Teens between the ages of 12 and 19 will be able to receive as many as ten free condoms per month through the site, which also points users to additional free condom resources and clinics. Once an order is placed, “a package of condoms, lubricant and an educational pamphlet arrives at teenagers’ homes in a nondescript yellow envelope” within several days.
Critics and abstinence-education advocates have lashed out at the effort, asserting that “the overwhelming majority of parents” would be opposed to such a service — but given the failure of abstinence-only sex education, the difficulty of accessing contraception, and California’s recent health trends, it may be necessary one. According to comprehensive data on the California Department of Public Health’s website, California teenage girls between the ages of 10 and 19 make up about 30 percent of all chlamydia and gonorrhea cases, and the teen live birth rate is about 3.5 percent. Those numbers represent rises over previous years, and are comprised of a disproportionate number of poor and minority populations.
Campaigns to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections are also important considering the rise of antibiotic resistant pathogens. Researchers recently identified the first cases of gonorrhea — the second-most common STI — that are immune to antibiotics.