When high school kids go back to school in four Montgomery County, Maryland public high schools, their back-to-school supplies will include all the basic necessities and condoms too.
No, parents don’t have to pay for the condoms. The school is providing them for free as part of the pilot program to stem the number of STD cases in the midst of an STD crisis happening across the nation and world.
The Montgomery County government said, for 2017, the nation saw a 17.5 percent increase in chlamydia cases, 51 percent rise in primary and secondary syphilis cases, with an 85 percent increase for early syphilis, and a 29 percent rise in the number of gonorrhea cases. Health officials are seeing the increase in many age groups, but it’s the adolescents and young adults age group – 15 to 29 – that have hit the highest level in a decade.
The problem isn’t just occurring one county or state; it’s nationwide and global. In the U.S., there were over 2.3 million new STD cases.
In a press release, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said giving out condoms in the high school is just one part of the county’s plan in its effort to better education, screenings and treatment for STDs. It’s a public health crisis, and because it mirrors the problem nationwide, it’s important the county does something so young adults and teenagers make good decisions regarding their sexual health.
The condom distribution will take place in the cities of Wheaton, Watkins Mills, Northwood and Gaithersburg, but may eventually be offered in all the county’s high schools. Local officials have mulled over the idea of implementing the program in middle school as well, but are requesting further research to determine if there’s a need.
High school condom distribution programs are nothing new and were enacted during the 1990s when the AIDS epidemic was in full swing. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2013, provided a revised policy that supported condom use among teenagers to stop unwanted pregnancies and STDs. The AAP said high schools are the best place for these programs and are regarded as highly effective when used along with sexual health education.
Although the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the CDC found a decrease in number of teens having sex – the lowest in 20 years – STDs are still a major health problem for them.
Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be treated and cured using antibiotics, but a lack of treatment could lead to major complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and more. Some antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea cases have also been reported.
The best way to prevent the spread of STDs is to use latex condoms correctly and regularly when having sex.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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