Education

Handing out condoms in schools could be the secret to fighting HIV

Teens make better decisions with access and education.

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A new review published by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) shows when teens have access to condoms, they use them, which improves sexual health. Experts believe making condoms more accessible in schools could be the key to combating deadly sexually transmitted diseases and high pregnancy rates.

School condom programs don’t prompt students to have sex at an earlier age either, UNFPA says. Teenagers with access to condoms at school actually reported having fewer sexual partners.

The review measured sexual activity, number of sexual partners, and age of sexual initiation to determine if condoms promoted promiscuity. There was no correlation between school condom programs and sexual activity, number of sexual partners, or age of sexual initiation.

The organization reviewed 29 articles from seven countries with experts at Harvard and Yale. Many of the studies researchers reviewed were conducted in wealthy countries where HIV and teen pregnancy rates were already low, or where students had access to other forms of birth control.

Bidia Deperthes, senior HIV prevention adviser for the UNFPA, told the Guardian if schools in countries with higher HIV and teen pregnancy rates had more condom access, she predicts the impact would be even more significant.

AIDS is the leading cause of death among young people (aged 10-24) in Africa, and the second leading cause globally. Young women are twice as likely to acquire HIV as young men.

“There is a condom crisis at the center of the prevention crisis,” Henk Van Renterghem, senior adviser at the organization UNAIDS, said about the lack of condom availability worldwide.

“We are missing a cost-effective opportunity to maximize the contribution of condoms to reducing HIV infections, other sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancies.”

Lack of access, religious beliefs, stigma, and laws stop schools from supplying condoms. Only 26 countries out of 100 that said they had a national condom strategy provided them in secondary schools in 2017, according to UNAIDS.

UNFPA researchers hope the review pushes more governments to see the benefits of introducing condoms in schools.

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