Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

Condoms & Sex Education: Start Early

A new study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that teens can expect a 50% reduced risk of developing chlamydia and gonorrhea if they use condoms from their very first sexual experience.  Starting to use condoms later on can certainly protect against disease – but it seems that there is something important about using them from the beginning.  In other words, people who use condoms from day 1 are more likely to keep using them regularly, and are therefore less likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

I could enter into some awkward speculation about why this is true (maybe it’s easier to get used to the sensation of wearing a condom if it’s all you’ve ever known?  Maybe using condoms from the start is more likely to make it a habit?) but more importantly, a 50% reduction in sexually transmitted infections is an incredibly huge margin of success.  Sadly, sex education programs for youth have had mixed success in increasing consistent condom use. This study seems to suggest that for those students who receive the message, and use condoms from their first experience, there is a much greater chance of avoiding STIs.  Early sex education, therefore, may have more benefit than sex education offered after an adolescent is sexually active.

Of course, like Dr. Stryer, I feel a bit concerned about over-exposing elementary school kids to sexual messaging.  But since kids are already exposed via TV, the Internet, and various other media, it behooves us to arm them with age-appropriate information at the earliest point possible.   Abstinence is the only 100% guarantee of an STI-free adolescence – but since ~50% of teens are sexually active (regardless of beliefs, sex education, or parental controls) it might be best to teach them that condoms are an inextricable part of all sexual intercourse.  Sexually transmitted diseases can mean the difference between fertility and infertility, long life, or earlier death for our kids.  With stakes this high, consistent condom use should be our mantra.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

One Response to “Condoms & Sex Education: Start Early”

  1. stayathome1 says:

    I think thats a  good way of looking at things. and it is very true if thats whats taught then they will likely continue to use them. so i say parents please start early and our children will have a brighter tommorow.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »