The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) 2013 official policy statement officially endorses widespread condom availability and sexual education to teenagers.
The AAP points to data showing that although teen pregnancy rates have dropped in the US over the last decade, sexually transmitted disease rates still remain high. Compared to other developed nations, the US still has higher rates of teenage pregnancies.
According to research in the report, roughly 50% of new sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed in people ages 15-24 years old. This rate is disproportionately high given that 15-24 year olds only make up 25% of the sexually active population. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia diagnoses rates have all risen over the last decade.
The medical news site Medscape notes that the AAP’s new policy statement still recommends that teens be encouraged to abstain from sex. But should a teenager decide to have sex, protection should be available.
“Unchanged from a 2001 policy statement,” Medscape says, “the AAP still recommends that adolescents be encouraged to abstain from sexual intercourse or counseled to postpone future sexual relationships. In addition, the new statement still emphasizes the important role pediatricians play in educating both boys and girls about responsible sexual activity and encouraging correct use of condoms among sexually active adolescent.”
The AAP’s report also cites data showing that increased condom availability and sexual education does not lead to higher rates of sexual activity in young people. For decades, parents and school administrators have struggled with the idea that sexual education encourages sexual behavior.
The report cited 83 studies of sexual education programs from around the world and found that “two-thirds of the programs significantly improved one or more sexual behaviors.” 48% of the programs that encouraged condom use saw young people use condoms more frequently. Here is the key statistic: not one of the studies found an increase in sexual activity following sexual education.
Amy Beakley, a researcher with the Health Communication Group of the Anneberg Public Policy Center, spoke about the false perception of sexual education leading to higher sexual activity.
“I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex,” Beakley said. “But really, that’s not the case… Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators.”