After winter break students in 22 Philadelphia public high schools will return to school seeing a new feature: clear plastic dispensers filled with free condoms.
It's a pilot designed to address "an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease in adolescents in Philadelphia," Donald F. Schwarz, the deputy mayor for health and opportunity, told Philly.com.
A city wide campaign called "The Freedom Condom Campaign" was launched April 7, 2011 after statistics showed that Philly youths between ages 11 and 19 have one of the highest sexually transmitted-disease rates among their peers in other big cities, according to a Philly.com article at the time.
The website reported that in an effort to promote condom use, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's Division of Disease Control sponsored a contest to design prophylactic wrappers that would appeal to youth.
After picking the winner, the Health Department gave them out free at more than 100 sites, including “health resource centers” at 12 public high schools and during STD testing at nine others, CBS Philly reports.
Since the start of the campaign, the city has given away about four million condoms, and now, STD rates are falling.
But they are still too high.
As a result, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health's Division of Disease Control made the decision to fund a pilot program in 22 schools with the highest known rates of sexually transmitted diseases, according Myfoxphilly.com
For example, health resource centers in twelve schools already offered condoms, but they’re installing handy, wall-mounted condom dispensers in those schools just inside the nurses' offices, to make it even easier for students to obtain them.
“If they are sexually active, they should be protected,” school district spokesman Fernando Gallard told CBS Philly.
Any student can get condoms and parents who don't want their children to receive them can sign a form., according Myfoxphilly.com
“There has not been any concern from parents. They understand what the procedures are,” he said.
Gallard says most understand, it’s a health issue.
Some parents, like the Lucero's of West Philadelphia, have different views.
"That's a good idea because kids are sexually active" mother Elizabeth Lucero told Myfoxphilly.com.
"I don't agree with it. It's kind of like promoting it, a way of advertising sex" added husband Marvin.
Other parents, aren't too thrilled, but understand why they need to be made available.
"In today's world, it's a fact that teenagers have sex. And you know. I don't like it" Michelle DiSalvatore whose daughter goes to South Philadelphia High School told Myfoxphilly.com.
DiSalvatore said when she went to school, the topic of sex and condoms were "taboo. Nobody even talked about it too much. Times have changed."