Condoms, Cookies, and Children

Last week, the Philadelphia Public Health Department launched a new campaign encouraging teens to “take control of their health”.  The website, TakeControlPhilly, educates teens on the importance of condom use, and invites children as young as 11 to request to have a package of condoms mailed to them—completely free of charge!  Yippee!!

When asked by members of the public if perhaps giving condoms away to 11-year-olds wasn’t such a good idea, the City Health Commissioner, Donald Schwarz replied:

“Clearly, we don’t think it’s OK for 11-year-olds to be having sex,” says Schwarz. “But we don’t have the infrastructure in place to fix [that] problem fast. We can, however, make condoms available fairly quickly to whoever needs them.”

Schwarz wasn’t the first to use this talking point, and he won’t be the last.  For some reason, people actually believe that giving away free condoms without discretion actually solves more problems than it creates.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that using condoms doesn’t help to stop the spread of certain diseases (though just a fun fact for you: HPV is the most common type of STD and the condom is useless against it).  I’m saying that arguing that giving condoms away doesn’t encourage more people to have sex is like trying to argue that little kids won’t eat cookies that are placed right in front of them.  …Which reminds me of a video I saw on YouTube a while back…

Ok so you get the point.  These kids were even given a real incentive for not eating the cookie right away…they would get another cookie!  And even then some couldn’t do it.  Can you blame them?  The cookie was right there, and no real consequences threatened them if they decided to eat it.

Obviously we’re talking about something much more meaningful (and much more appealing) than cookies, here.  And what is the incentive that the city, who is giving the 11-year-olds condoms, giving them for not using them?  “Only use these if you need them”?  What does that even mean to an 11-year-old?  Giving condoms away doesn’t really solve any real problems.  It’s like settling for putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.