February 21, 2012
Launched this month, the Condom Access Project (CAP) allows youths ages 12-19 in several California counties to order online a free package of 10 condoms, lubricant and health information. Youths can request one package per month through the website teensource.org, which is run by the California Family Health Council. The material is sent by mail in a plain yellow envelope.
Supported by the California Department of Public Health's STD Control Branch, CAP aims to help reduce teen pregnancies and STDs among youths. The project, which will be paid for with federal funds, especially targets teens who cannot afford to buy condoms or are too embarrassed to access free condoms at clinics.
"We can't keep our heads in the sand and pretend there isn't a problem," said Amy Moy, the council's vice president of public affairs. "We want to make sure [teens are] as safe as possible."
Teens and young adults have the highest rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia of any age group in California, health officials say. And CAP-served Kern County has one of the state's highest teen birth rates. In addition to Kern County, CAP is available for residents of Alameda, Sacramento and San Joaquin counties and parts of San Francisco.
Critics say CAP could be perceived as tacit approval of teen sex, and that it may lack the support of parents.
"I would think the overwhelming majority of parents in Kern County wouldn't think this is a good idea," said Linda Davis, executive director of the Bakersfield Pregnancy Center, which advocates abstinence. "And I don't think their kids would have the nerve to request them."
For more information, visit: www.teensource.org/ts/condoms/free.