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Birth Control Health Center

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Condoms in Schools Don't Boost Teen Sex

Key is Making Condom Programs Part of Overall Sex Education, Says One Expert

More Evidence That Condom Giveaways Work continued...

"Actually, multiple studies consistently show that making condoms available to students does not increase any measure of their sexual behavior -- whether the teens have sex, how frequently they have it, or the number of partners they have," Douglas Kirby, PhD, tells WebMD. "And some studies, including one that I conducted involving thousands of Seattle high school students show, as Susan's study does, that the percentage of teens having sex declined after condoms were made available to them."

Kirby, senior research scientist for ETR Associates, a non-profit California company that does research on sex and health education programs, also conducted another study that evaluated all previous research -- some 73 studies in all -- measuring how giving out condoms in schools, along with other sex-education programs, affected patterns of teenaged sexual behavior.

"In every study, these programs did not increase sexual behavior," he says. "In some, but not all, the rates of sexual behavior actually decreased when condoms were made available to students. And in some, but not all, these programs led to increased condom and contraception use in teens who were already having sex."

When he collected that data, published in May 2001 for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, there were "hundreds" of schools in the U.S. that had condom-availability programs. But it's hard to determine how many schools still have them; there is no national clearinghouse that collects these statistics. "And some schools are beginning to make them available that didn't before, some that once did no longer do," says Kirby.

Better as Part of Overall Program

But how programs that give out condoms in schools are operated or integrated into other sex education initiatives seems to impact their effectiveness at lowering sexual activity and rates of unprotected sex, says another expert.

"You can see the most positive effects when condom-distribution programs are part of or integrated with a broader sexuality and sex education program," says David Landry, researcher at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis, and public education. It also publishes the peer-reviewed medical journal, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, where much of this research is published.

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