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Teen Condom Access Project Expands To San Diego County

California teens in "high STD areas" can request free condoms online and have them delivered to their doorsteps.

San Diego County has the second-highest number of chlamydia cases among 15- to 19-year-olds in the state and the sixth-highest number of gonorrhea cases, according to the California Family Health Council.

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That's why the statewide, federally-funded family planning network is expanding its Condom Access Project to the county this month.

The program lets teens in seven "high STD areas" order free condoms online. The condoms, along with some educational pamphlets, arrive on their doorsteps in discreet packaging.

Amy Moy, vice president of public affairs for the council, said the program helps reach teens who may be too shy to pick up condoms in stores and clinics.

"Despite broad retailer availability, teens are facing barriers to accessing condoms because of embarrassment, or concerns related to confidentiality, or cost and accessibility," Moy said.

The Family Health Council mailed out 30,000 condoms last year. Teens can request the mailers monthly at TeenSource.org.

For parents who intercept the parcels and are surprised by their teen's sexual activity, Moy recommended visiting TalkWithYourKids.org for advice on starting the conversation about sex.

"We really encourage family communication around these issues," Moy said. "Ideally, when the package comes home, it's not a big surprise and it doesn't start a new conversation."

Across the state, sexually transmitted disease rates are on the rise.

The number of chlamydia cases in San Diego County grew from 14,141 in 2008 to 15,399 in 2011, according to the California Department of Public Health. Gonorrhea cases increased from 1,847 to 2,174 between 2008 and 2011. County data shows rates are highest in central San Diego.

"It's really important that we all share with youth in our lives that abstinence is the most effective way to avoid sexually transmitted infection and unintended pregnancy," Moy said. "But we know that teens are engaging in sexual activity, and we just want to help them be as safe as possible and not keep our heads in the sand and pretend there isn't a problem."

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