Phila. campaigns for sexual health
The 'Take Control Philly' program provides free condoms to youth to promote safety
April 20, 2011, 4:28 am·
To join Facebook, children need to be at least 13 years old. To obtain a Pennsylvania driver’s license, teenagers need to be at least 16 years old. And to vote, the minimum age of 18 remains the law of the land.
Under a new Philadelphia campaign, however, kids as young as 11 years old would be able to order free condoms by mail.
The “Take Control Philly” campaign is a new initiative aimed at promoting sexual health and preventing sexually transmitted diseases among Philadelphia youth.
The campaign, whose unveiling coincides with National STD Awareness Month, consists of a new official city condom — the “Freedom Condom,” which can be obtained by mail or at various points around the city — a new website and various social media efforts.
Philadelphia has a high rate of sexually active young people, Donald Schwarz, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, said in a statement, yet “we have one of the lowest numbers of youth who report using a condom.”
STD rates are also higher than average in Philadelphia. For example, the rate of gonorrhea in 10-19 year olds is three to four times higher in Philadelphia than among the rest of the country, according to a report by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
“I feel like they always say the rates are increasing, but they’re not addressing the issues that cause these high rates,” said Tiffany Thompson — the Communications and Operations supervisor for the Youth Health Empowerment Project, an organization that promotes health and leadership development in Philadelphia youth.
The high incidence of STDs among teens is not unique to Philadelphia. Even though young people make up only one-fourth of the sexually active population, they account for half of all new STD cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, some believe more steps need to be taken to address sexual health among students.
While providing young people with preventative methods is important, “it is a disservice to our youth to not provide the education and facts on proper usage, other preventative methods and also counseling on self-esteem and empowering them to be able to delay sex,” explained Katelyn Tente, a dual-degree master’s in social work and master’s in public health student.
“Philadelphia has sometimes failed — there’s so much more of an emphasis on education as far as passing test scores,and not enough on education around other social and emotional issues … and getting someone comfortable enough to tell their partner to use a condom in the first place,” Thompson said.
Children as young as 11 may not even properly know how to use a condom.
“Some kids just get out and make balloons out of them and don’t know what to do with them,” Nursing professor Loretta Jemmott said.
Jemmott, who directs Penn’s Center for Health Disparities Research, added that while increased condom availability is a positive thing, “it alone will not reduce all the issues we are dealing with … there’s a need for condoms, plus educational programs around those beliefs and challenges that kids deal with.”