Calif. Dept. of Public Health Launches Effort To Reduce STDs
CALIFORNIA — This week is National Condom Week and California Family Health Council (CFHC) has teamed up with the California Department of Public Health’s STD Control Branch (STDCB) to launch a new Condom Access Project (CAP) designed to reduce the rate of STD transmission among teens by ensuring that California youth have access to free condoms year round.
The project, officially launched on Valentine’s Day on TeenSource.org, CFHC’s teen focused website, is modeled on a successful condom distribution program in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “Take Control, Philly” and includes two key components:
- Individual Home Mailers: Teens in Alameda, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Kern County (counties with particularly high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea reported among 15-19 year olds), as well as selected areas of San Francisco, will be able to go online and confidentially request a small package of 10 condoms, personal lubricant, and informational materials (e.g. a health brochure that discusses STD and pregnancy prevention) be sent to them up to one time per month.
- Condom Access Sites: Designated youth-serving organizations across California will receive regular shipments of condoms to be made available for free to teens who visit their sites. Participating sites will be included on a searchable map located on the TeenSource website. Teen-friendly clinics and organizations that already provide free condoms to teens are encouraged to email STDprograms@cfhc.org to have their site listed on the map.
“We know from research that significant barriers to condom access remain for youth. They cost a lot, youth are uncomfortable asking for them, and in some areas free condoms can be hard to find. CAP breaks down those barriers by providing free condoms to teens in a way that is both confidential and teen-friendly and meets them where they are – online and at home,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO, California Family Health Council.
Although teen pregnancy rates in the state have declined steadily over the past decade, STD rates among California’s youth ages 15-19 have increased. In fact, according to the latest data from the California Department of Public Health, teens and young adults have the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia of all age groups in California.
- In 2010, almost 7,000 cases of gonorrhea and 74,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in females 15-24 years of age in California, representing almost 65% of all female gonorrhea cases and 70 percent of all female chlamydia cases in the state.
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the leading causes of preventable infertility in California, affecting all women, but particularly women who are just entering their reproductive years.[ii]
- Nationally, young men and women 15-24 years of age have four times the reported gonorrhea rate and four times the reported chlamydia rate of the total population (10-65+).[iii]
- At the end of 2009 there were over 1,500 youth ages 10-19 living with HIV/AIDS in California.[iv]
Proper and consistent use of condoms is known to be an effective method to reduce the risk of STD transmission during sex. Free condom distribution programs have resulted in increased condom use, and have not led to an increase in sexual activity. Encouraging safe practices amongst youth by making condoms accessible is one key piece of a larger statewide strategy to decrease rates of STD’s in teens, including education, training, community partnerships, and clinic services.
“Access to condoms for males and females with the knowledge to correctly use them is one of several essential tools for reducing unintended pregnancies and STDs,” said Dr. Claudia Jonah, Kern County Health Officer. The county, one of the four counties selected for CAP’s home mailer program, has among the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea for youth in the state and an alarmingly high teen birth rate at 59.7 per 1000 – the second highest in the state and nearly double the national average.[v]
Condoms distributed through CAP are intended for personal use between consenting individuals and are not permitted for resale. Teens interested in receiving condoms are also encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of resources available on TeenSource.org and through Hookup, CFHC’s text message program that lets mobile phone users text “HOOKUP” to 61827 to receive weekly sexual health info and life advice on their phones, including information about the benefits of parental involvement in their sexual health and healthy decision making. Parents looking for advice on talking with their teens about sexual health and safety can also visit CFHC’s Talkwithyourkids.org for helpful tips.
“This partnership is yet another example of California’s leadership and innovation in the field of sexual and reproductive health and we are thrilled to be involved. By providing sexually active teens with the tools they need to prevent STDs and pregnancy we’re not only keeping teens healthy, but our entire state. Further investments in prevention strategies such as CAP are critical if we hope to continue the progress we’ve made in reducing teen pregnancy rates and see any significant reduction in STD rates among youth throughout the state,” added Rabinovitz.
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