San Francisco News

Free condom mail program sparks debate

Monday, February 20, 2012

A state-sponsored program is generating some controversy and debate. California is delivering free condoms to teenagers. Orders are taken online.

The non-profit California Family Health Council has teamed up with the state Department of Public Health to launch this mail-order condom program. It's being paid for by funds set aside by the Centers for Disease Control.

Teens can easily buy condoms at the store or get them for free at certain health clinics, but now, they have another option. 12-to-19 year olds can now go online at teensource.org and place an order for condoms to come straight to their home, at no cost.

"Research shows barriers such as embarrassment or concerns around confidentiality or affordability are present for teens, so we want to be able to break down those barriers," said Amy Moy from the California Family Health Council.

The teen pregnancy rate is down in California, but the number cases of STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, is up among 15 to 19-year-olds, which is why the mail-order condom program is targeting the counties with the highest rate of STDs among teens. So at this point, only teens in San Francisco, Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Kern counties are able to place an online order.

"The best way to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancies is abstinence, but if young people are going to be sexually active, this project seeks to help them be safe and responsible," said Moy.

In addition to condoms, teens who place an order online will receive lubricant and an educational pamphlet, all in a nondescript yellow envelope. Parents we talked to had a wide range of opinions.

"If you've done your job as a parent and taught them what's right and wrong, that's part of a good choice for teenagers, I think," said Tom Angsten, a parent.

"That's not something you should be getting in the mail. It should be something that your parents would want you to get and then they should get it for you," said Imelda Johnson, a parent.

Since this program was launched on Tuesday, there have been 500 orders. This program could expand to other counties depending on funding.

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