NEW YORK - Although teenagers should be encouraged to abstain from sex, they should also have access to cheap condoms, pediatricians said Monday.
In a policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Adolescence said schools are a good place to make condoms available. To be most effective, they should also be accompanied by sex education programs.
There is still some resistance to making condoms more accessible for young people, researchers said.
"I think one of the main issues is the idea that if you provide condoms and make them accessible, kids will be more likely to have sex. But really, that's not the case," Amy Bleakley said.
"Getting over the perception that giving condoms out will make kids have sex is a real barrier for parents and school administrators," she told Reuters Health.
Bleakley studies teen sexual behaviour and reproductive health at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia but wasn't part of the AAP committee.
She said some studies suggest teenagers with access to condoms and comprehensive sex education actually start having sex later than their peers who don't.
Teen birth rates have been declining in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, there were 31 births for every 1,000 US women aged 15 to 19.
But that number is still higher than in other developed countries.
And rates of many sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Chlamydia and gonorrhea, are highest among teenage and young adult women.
The new policy statement, an update to the AAP's 2001 statement on condom use by adolescents, was published Monday in Pediatrics.
"The biggest difference is that we have more evidence about how effective they are against sexually transmitted infections," Dr. Rebecca O'Brien, the policy statement's lead author, said.
That's especially true for viruses like herpes and HIV, she added.