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strongly endorsed condom availability for adolescents through schools (AAP, Committee on Adolescence, 1995; AMA, 1996).
Condom availability in schools is an emotionally and politically charged issue. Some of the other the major issues associated with condom availability programs are related to parental consent, funding of condom purchases, staffing and counseling, and legal liability. Opponents of condom availability in schools believe that providing or promoting condoms to adolescents hastens the onset of sexual intercourse, increases sexual activity, and violates parental autonomy in this area. There is no evidence, however, that condom availability or promotion programs increase sexual activity (Kirby, 1994). A study of three school-based clinics that provided contraceptives showed that students in these schools did not initiate sexual intercourse earlier or have intercourse more frequently compared to students in schools without such programs (Kirby et al., 1991). Another study of a high school condom availability program found that the benefit of the program in protecting a sexually active student against STDs and pregnancy was more than three times greater than the risk of encouraging a nonsexually active student to have intercourse (Wolk and Rosenbaum, 1995). In addition, a study of a community-based condom promotion and distribution program among Latino adolescents compared rates of sexual activity in the intervention city with a comparable city without such an intervention (Sellers et al., 1994). Researchers found that, compared to their counterparts in the control city, male adolescents in the intervention city were significantly less likely to initiate sexual intercourse, and female adolescents in the intervention city were significantly less likely to have multiple partners. There were no significant differences in the onset of sexual activity for female adolescents, multiple partnership among male adolescents, or the frequency of sex for male or female adolescents in the two cities.
The funding of condom availability programs can be as contentious as the programs themselves. Schools and local health departments are increasingly under budgetary constraints, and there are several concerns regarding the use of federal funds for these programs (Brindis, 1993). An examination of major condom availability programs in several cities demonstrates that a mix of funding sources, including public and private funds, is necessary to sustain these programs (Brindis, 1993; Stryker et al., 1994). A series of focus group discussions with school superintendents and board members in 1992 revealed that, although they may be supportive of condom availability programs under certain conditions, school officials were unlikely to be leaders in initiating condom availability programs (Greene, 1993).
School condom availability programs in Falmouth (Massachusetts), New York City, and Philadelphia have been challenged in the courts (Mahler, 1996). Program opponents have generally argued that such programs violate parental and religious rights. In January 1996, however, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Curtis v. School Committee of Falmouth. In this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the school district's program that allowed