The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the birth rate for women 15-19 years old, which has declined steadily for the past nine years, hit a record low last year of 48.7 births per 1,000 teen women. Condom use may be a major cause of this decrease. While use of the pill has declined slightly and levels of female abstinence did not increase significantly between 1988 and 1995, condom use is becoming more prevalent. Between 1982 and 1988, condom use among teen women rose from 20.8 percent to 32.8 percent. In 1995, the rate of condom use in this group rose again, to 36.7 percent.
Yet the advocacy of abstinence-based education, rather than the promotion of use of condoms as both a method of preventing pregnancy and STD transmission, continues. The National Institutes of Health recently released a report that while condoms prevent HIV and gonorrhea, they may not prevent other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Dr. Jeff Klausner, director of STD Prevention and Control Services for the San Francisco Department of Health responds, “I believe this report is a politically motivated attempt to support abstinence programs. My concern is that it will mislead people into thinking that condoms aren’t effective.” Ward Cates, the former director of the STD program of the Centers for Disease Control added that since condoms are effective in preventing HIV, advocates should “go full out to advocate them.”