Why 11-Year-Olds Need Condoms

A new city-wide safe-sex campaign is just what the doctor ordered

The City of Philadelphia plans to give you one million free condoms. But after kicking off its Take Control campaign with the “Freedom Condom,” some folks may be having trouble wrapping their own heads around the idea that someone as young as 11 can order their rubbers in the mail or just by stopping by one of more than 100 distribution centers in the city.

The website – which contains frank information (and animation) about how to put on and use a condom – is a valuable resource for any young person who may have questions about safe sex. And while the site – with it’s very explicit material – may strike some as a bit “too” forward, this move to educate Philly’s young people is among the most aggressive in the country. And for that we should be grateful.

The sad part of the equation is that while this new campaign is ramping up efforts to let kids know about safer sex – and the importance of using condoms to protect against HIV, AIDS and other STDs – Philly ranks as having the earliest age for sexual experimentation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent report suggests kids younger than 13 are already having sex. That’s why reaching them even earlier – when many teachers and school officials will tell you these kids are already behaving sexually – could change the course of their lives (for the better).

While the ideal is that a guardian will educate his or her child on the dangers (and pleasures) of sex in a mature, healthy way, for many young people, this simply isn’t an option. Homeless LGBT teens are particularly susceptible to disease as many of them may turn to prostitution after being kicked out of their homes for being gay. And as more young people come out at younger ages, this means even younger kids end up on the streets.

That’s not saying the condom campaign won’t also help kids with happy homes – because it will.

And for those people who may criticize this new website (and the free condoms), consider how much explicit material is already available online. Porn is everywhere. But if someone wants to genuinely find out how they can protect themselves – and get free condoms while they’re at it – how much better that they should be able to access a legitimate source that speaks to them and has their health and welfare in mind.

If an 11-year-old is logging on to find out about sex, we should all feel that much better knowing that a resource like Take Control Philly is out there. If it can spare St. Christopher’s from fielding one more case of a tween who tests HIV-positive, then it’s more than done its job.