Cape Town | A systematic review by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has shown that school-based condom availability programmes can help to prevent unintended pregnancies, HIV and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents.
The systematic review included nine studies which measured the impact that the availability of condoms at schools may have on condom use and sexual behaviour. It found that students in schools with condom availability programmes were more likely to obtain and use condoms, when compared with schools without them. It also found that students in schools in which these programmes are implemented reported similar or lower levels of sexual activity than students in schools without them. The conclusions made in this review have influenced policy in the USA, resulting in several high schools in some counties implementing condom availability programmes in order to curb the rise in sexually transmitted infections among students.
“We hope that this review will also influence education officials to put in place school condom availability programmes in South African schools as was done in some schools in the USA,” says Dr Catherine Mathews, Unit Director at the SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit and co-author of the systematic review.
Due to the limited access that adolescents have to basic sexual reproductive health services in high, middle and low- income countries, the study sought to investigate whether implementing condom availability programmes in schools would serve as an ideal platform to extend coverage for these services given that 75% of adolescents are enrolled in secondary school globally.
“Our work shows the importance of investing in school condom availability programmes. These could work best if they are part of a package of school health services and health education,” says Dr Mathews.
The systematic review is a collaboration between the SAMRC, The Fenway Institute, Brown University School of Public Health and the University of Cape Town’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
NOTE TO THE EDITOR:
For more information on the study visit: http://www.samrc.ac.za/research-for-our-people/effects-school-based-condom-availability-programs-caps-condom-acquisition
About the SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit: The SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit assess how healthcare systems function to strengthen health policy, to improve the impact and efficiency of health systems and services and to enhance person-centered care.
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