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PrEP
July 2010 (To print, click the print icon on your browser
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Provincetown, Massachusetts Passes New Condom Availability Program

Provincetown, Massachusetts has become the source of a major national controversy after a new condom availability policy was approved by its school committee in June 2010.[1] The policy reads: “Condoms will be available, upon request, to Provincetown students,” and was intentionally written with no minimum age limit for students who wish to ask for or receive condoms.[2] It was this use of open-ended language that sparked heated debates and strong opposition from various conservative organizations and media outlets.
 
Provincetown School District Superintendent Beth Singer pushed back against the criticism, saying that “the policy was crafted following the recommendation of the town’s health advisory committee, and the school board unanimously backed the new rule.”[3] The policy allows any student to request condoms from the school nurse, but must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence.
 
“The intent is to protect kids,” Singer said. “We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?” Singer also explained that the policy would be applied practically, such that if an elementary school-aged student requested a condom, the nurse would ask the student a series of questions and almost certainly deny him or her.[4] A Newsweek article on the controversy commented on the policy’s lack of an age limitation: “Theoretically, yes, a 6-year-old could walk in and request condoms. The chances of that happening, of course, are slim—but if a 6-year-old were asking about sex, wouldn't a little counseling from a medical professional be in order?”[5]
 
Although condom distribution programsare often sources of great controversy, they are not entirely uncommon. In fact, a 2003 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that 50 school districts representing more than 425 schools in the United States reportedly have condom availability programs, 42 percent of which are found in Massachusetts.[6] Studies on condom availability programs consistently show that when teens are educated about and have access to condoms, levels of condom use at first intercourse increase while levels of sexual intercourse stay the same.[7]
 
“Providing adolescents with accurate information and access to contraception, including condoms, to protect their health are crucial prevention efforts,” comments Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. “Research shows that making condoms available to students does not make the students more likely to have intercourse. It does, however, make students more likely to use contraception and make safe decisions when they are sexually active.” 
 
The Provincetown condom availability program will launch in September 2010.[8]
 

 



[1] “Provincetown Facts,” Provincetown Tourism Office, accessed 14 July 2010, <http://www.provincetowntourismoffice.org/index.aspx?nid=165>.
[2] Mary Ann Bragg, “Town Plays it Safe, Issues Condom Policy Apology,” Cape Cod Times, 30 June 2010, accessed 19 July 2010,
[3] Hillary Chabot and Renee Nadeau Algarin, “P’town Puts Condoms in Kids’ Hands,” Boston Herald, 24 June 2010, accessed 14 July 2010, <http://bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100624ptown_puts_condoms_in_kids_hands_schools
[4] Glen Johnson, “Massachusetts Town to Rethink School Condom Policy,” Huffington Post, 24 June 2010, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/
[5] Kate Dailey, “Condoms for Kindergartners: The Smart Policy Behind the Dumb Headline,” Newsweek, 25 June 2010, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/
[6] Susan M. Black et al., “Condom Availability Programs in Massachusetts High Schools: Relationships With Condom Use and Sexual Behavior,” American Journal of Public Health 93.6 (2003): 955–962, accessed 19 July 2010, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447877/pdf/0930955.pdf>.


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