Forget safe sex - let's promote 'save sex'
Dr Trevor Stammers is not the only Pulse reader to be disturbed by the comment from the chief executive of a condom manufacturer that 'GPs need to accept the need to provide condoms to children' ('Sex at 12 a child protection issue', pulsetoday.co.uk/letters).
This policy is bad medicine for the following reasons:
- Adolescents and children are known to be inefficient at using condoms, and the failure rate increases with decreasing age.
- The assertion that condoms provide 'safe sex' is untrue. They do not offer substantial protection against common infections such as herpes, HPV or chlamydia. Also the failure rate means there is no guarantee against unwanted pregnancy and the often resulting abortion.
- Overconfidence in condom safety leads to increased risk-taking behaviour and increased numbers of sexual partners, in turn leading to an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexual infection.
There is a similarity here between condom promotion and smoking advice. We don't tell smokers to use filters to reduce risk of serious illness, but to reduce and stop.
We should be clearly telling children that underage sex is both risky and bad for their health.
Instead of giving children condoms we should be promoting a 'saved-sex' message - that is, abstaining from sex until they are ready for a long-term, stable relationship.
From Dr Chris Bronsdon, Sheffield