"Condom availability was not associated with greater sexual activity among adolescents but was associated with greater condom use among those who were already sexually active, a highly positive result," says Susan M. Blake Ph.D., of the Department of Prevention and Community Health at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C.
"When condoms are available in schools and are successfully used by sexually active adolescents, they may be an effective means of preventing potentially harmful outcomes such as HIV/STDs and pregnancy," she adds.
Approximately half of all adolescents in grades nine through 12 report that they have had sex, with nearly 60 percent using condoms during their most recent sexual encounter, according to research cited in the study.
Blake and colleagues analyzed sexual risk behavior data from the 1995 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey with the goal of seeing how students attending schools with condom availability programs differed from those whose schools lacked such programs. Twenty-one percent of the 4,166 students who participated in the survey were enrolled in schools with condom availability programs.
The practice of making condoms available in schools is fairly controversial and many of the small fraction of schools nationwide that do so are in Massachusetts. There, the Department of Education's HIV/AIDS education policy includes recommendations that district school boards consider making condoms -- along with instruction on how to use them and HIV/AIDS education -- available in secondary schools.