California initiative offers free condoms to reduce transmission of STDs among teens

February 16, 2012

The California Department of Public Health and the California Family Health Council have launched a new project that is designed to reduce the rate of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases among teens by making free condoms available year round. Could such an initiative work in your state? Learn about the details of this innovative program.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the California Family Health Council (CFHC) have launched a new project that is designed to reduce the rate of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teens by making free condoms available year round.

The Condom Access Project (CAP) enables California teens to go online confidentially to either request a package of 10 condoms, personal lubricant, and health brochures that discuss STDs and pregnancy prevention or to access a searchable map of participating distribution sites.

The project’s goal is to remove barriers to condom access for youth who might not know where to find free assistance or feel uncomfortable asking for condoms. “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 chief executive officer of CFHC.

Recent data from the CDPH show that rates of STDs have increased among the state’s youth aged 15 to 19 years, with teens and young adults having the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia of all age groups. Although the teen pregnancy rate in the state has declined over the last 10 years, data for 2009 show the teen birth rate at 32.1 per 1,000 teens, with the highest rate among Hispanic girls at 50.8 per 1,000.

Nationally, young men and women aged 15 to 24 years have 4 times the reported rates for gonorrhea and chlamydia compared with the total population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Encouraging safe sex practices among California teens by making condoms accessible is part of a larger statewide strategy to decrease the rates of STD infection and unintended pregnancy in youth that also includes educational resources, training, community partnerships, and clinic services.

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