What is CAP?
CAP stands for the Condom Access Project. CAP makes it easier for teens who have sex to make safe and smart decisions about their sexual and reproductive health by helping them get condoms when they need them.
It is important to protect the health of young people across California. Abstinence is the most effective way to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancy and many teenagers choose not to have sex. But, for teens who are sexually active it is important that they use a condom the right way every time they have sex to lower the chances of getting an STD or becoming pregnant (source).
Even though teens can buy condoms in different places across the state, it’s not always easy for teens to get the condoms they need to protect their health and future. Condoms can be too expensive for some teens. It can also be embarrassing to ask for them in a store. Some teens may not know where to find condoms.
Studies show that giving teens free condoms does not lead to teens having sex more often, but does lead teens who are already having sex to use condoms more often. Increasing access to condoms through CAP is one good way to lower pregnancy and STD rates among sexually active youth in California. CAP is one part of a larger statewide plan to decrease STD rates among California teens.
STDs and Youth
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are about 19 million new STD infections in the U.S. each year, and almost half of them are among youth 15 to 24 years old (source). Untreated STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can make it hard or impossible for people to get pregnant later on in life. Having an STD can also make it easier to get infected with HIV if exposed.
HIV in Youth
One out of every 5 people who will get HIV this year will be under age 25. Young people between 13 to 24 years old make up about 20% of all new HIV infections each year. (source)
The good news is that the teen birth rate has been going down in the United States. Even so, the teen birth rate in the U.S. is still higher than that of other western countries. Being a teen parent is never easy. It can be hard on the teen, their children, and the whole family. Preventing teen pregnancy helps teens reach their goals and gives them a chance to have children when they are ready.(source)
Some facts about STDs, HIV and Teen Births in California:
- In California in 2010, young women between the ages of 15-24 made up 65% of all reported female gonorrhea cases and 70% of all reported female chlamydia cases (source);
- Over 1,500 youth 10-19 years old were living with HIV/AIDS in California in 2009 (source);
- In 2010 in California, there were 43,127 births to women 15-19 years old. This means there were 29 births for every 1,000 15-19 years old girls (source).
What are the goals of CAP?
CAP works to make it easier for teens who choose to have sex to get condoms by offering them for free in the mail and in teen-friendly locations. Along with other programs, CAP hopes to lower pregnancy and STD rates among teens in California.
How does CAP work?
Teens can get free condoms through CAP in two ways:
- They can go to a Condom Access Site. They find a nearby site by typing in their zip code at www.teensource.org.
- They can request that condoms be mailed to them. This option is only offered to youth in Alameda, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Joaquin Counties, and parts of San Francisco. These areas were chosen based on the county teen birth rates and the number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases amongst 15 to 19 year olds.
How can parents help?
It’s always best when teens and parents can talk openly and honestly about sexuality and healthy decision making. For more information about how to talk with your teens about sex, relationships, and condoms, visit www.talkwithyourkids.org.
Have more questions about the Condom Access Project? E-mail us at STDprograms@essentialaccess.org. We’re glad to help!