Teen sex has long been a public health concern. Now, there is a new problem. More young adults are having unprotected sex even in areas where free condoms are readily available. The current emphasis on sex appeal, male enhancement and what is hot has had some unexpected side effects. It seems that abstinence-only sex education and our sex-obsessed society do not mix. According to a 2012 study published by the Guttmacher Institute, roughly 90 percent of high schools teach teens about abstinence and STDs. Fewer than 60 percent of health classes inform students about contraception methods, how to use them and why they are important. The statistics on condom use and the increase in STDs among young adults are shocking.
During the 1990s, condom use among young adults reached a record high. Back then, about 60 percent of American students were using condoms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the past decade, prophylactics have been losing popularity at a rapid rate. Initially, the AIDs epidemic drove youngsters to see condoms as a beneficial necessity. Now, teens use condoms initially but are less likely to use them over time. One study conducted by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that condom usage rates among college students are about 50-50.
Cases of gonorrhea have increased by 40 percent in recent years. The CDC estimates that half of all chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are diagnosed in patients between the ages of 15 and 24. This age group contracts STDs four times more often than the general population. More cases of syphilis and HIV are diagnosed in this demographic than in any other. Teens are especially at risk for contracting “silent” STDs like chlamydia because they assume their partners are clean.
Laura Kann, the CDC’s expert on youth risk behavior, says that kids today see HIV as a manageable condition. Patrick Luedtke, a health official in Oregon, agreed that people today do not have a fear of dying from a sexually transmitted condition like they did 15 years ago. Consequently, he added, teenagers are not making safe sex a priority. Statistics show that older people are having sex more often due to advances in penile surgery and other fields. However, adults are less likely to contract STDs even though they have intercourse more often than youngsters. Experts say that is because the young people who have sex frequently do so with multiple partners.
Sex is not the taboo topic that it once was, but officials are still hesitant to promote condom use among school-aged children. The reasoning is that if kids have condoms, they will have more sex. However, this is beginning to change. In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics said it supports programs that provide condoms to students. Many parents, teachers and students are willing to talk about sex, but the conversation has shifted to other issues, such as bullying, obesity and tobacco. Some experts say that health officials are a victim of their own success. Because health organizations have controlled outbreaks of STDs and developed successful treatments, teens do not believe that these issues affect them.
More than half of Canadian college students said that they use condoms as birth control. Only 6 percent of students said that they only use prophylactics to prevent STDs. The wide availability of birth control has made condoms seem unimportant. Plus, condoms have a negative reputation. Just as men undergo penis enlargement surgery because they believe that it makes intercourse more pleasurable, many adults choose not to wear condoms because they do not feel good. Even Bill Gates weighed in on the issue and challenged the public to develop a new condom that people might actually use.