Objectives. To determine what students know about a condom availability program in their high school, how they react to the program, whether they obtain condoms from it, and what they do with these condoms.
Design. Self-administered anonymous survey conducted 1 year after the program began.
Setting. An urban California school district.
Participants. A total of 1112 students, 9th through 12th grade, 59% of eligible students present on the survey day.
Main Outcome Measures. History of obtaining condoms from the program, use of these condoms, knowledge about the program, and attitudes toward the program.
Results. Forty-eight percent of students had personally taken school condoms, and another 5% had gotten them from someone else, for a total of 53% who had obtained school condoms. Seventy percent of nonvirgins and 38% of virgins obtained condoms. Males were more likely than females to have obtained condoms (60% vs 45%). Fifty-four percent of students who had obtained school condoms had used them for sexual activity: 52% had used them for vaginal intercourse, 7% for anal intercourse, and 4% for fellatio. Students also explored school condoms without having sex, eg, removing them from the packet, putting them on fingers, or putting them on their penis or a partner's penis. Thirty-four percent of students who had used a condom for vaginal intercourse during the previous year had obtained the condom they last used from school, with more males than females reporting the school as their source (41% vs 26%).
Eighty-eight percent of students knew that all students were allowed to obtain condoms, and 74% knew that parental permission was not required. Students generally supported the condom program: 88% thought the school should give out condoms, and 79% thought that if the school were to require parental permission for students to get condoms, students would get them less often than with the present system (which does not require permission). Thirteen percent agreed and 71% disagreed that “having condoms available at school makes it harder for someone who doesn't want to have sex to say no.”
Conclusions. Providing high school students with direct access to condoms leads to widespread use of school condoms, both for sexual activity and for exploratory activities that familiarize students with condoms. Condoms are of interest to both students who have and students who have not engaged in sexual activities for which condoms are recommended.