Condom machines in school create uproar...

[deleted account] ( 14 moms have responded )

ROME - The decision by a Rome high school to install condom vending machines has set off a storm in Italy, with the Catholic Church charging the move will encourage young people to have sex and Rome's mayor saying it sends the wrong message.

But the Keplero high school vowed Thursday to go ahead with its experiment, billed as the first in the capital. While it's a relative novelty for Italy, schools in several other European countries have installed the machines in hopes of curbing teen pregnancy and HIV.

"This is not about stimulating the use of condoms or intercourse," Antonio Panaccione, the school headmaster, told The Associated Press. "On the contrary, it's about prevention and education."

The school plans to install six vending machines as part of educating students about sexuality and HIV protection. The price: euro2 (US$2.70) for a pack of three, lower than market prices.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the pope's vicar for Rome, said the decision trivialized sex. He said it "cannot be approved by Rome's ecclesiastical community or by Christian families who are seriously concerned with the education of their children."

The newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference said Thursday that sex was being reduced to "mere physical exercise." The newspaper, L'Avvenire, lamented that young people these days have no spiritual guidance on sexuality, and that educators are more concerned with "the health and hygiene consequences of sex" than its moral implications.

The Vatican opposes artificial contraception. Catholic teaching views sex as a means for procreation within marriage.

Vocal opposition
Pope Benedict XVI drew criticism from European governments, international organizations and scientists last year when he said distributing condoms was not the answer to Africa's AIDS problem, and could make it worse. He said a moral attitude toward sex — abstinence and marital fidelity — would help fight the virus.

"The scandal is that we do it in Rome, because this is the city of the pope and therefore one can't really talk about sex," Panaccione said in a phone interview. "They can talk about pedophilia, can't they?" he said, referring to a sex abuse scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church in several European countries.

But some criticism came from outside the church, too.

A leading association of parents, MOIGE, said the move was "trivial and insufficient." Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, a conservative, was quoted by the ANSA news agency as saying that "on the one hand it's childish to think young people need these vending machines, on the other hand it seems like a bad message to them."

The head of Italy's national association of Catholic pharmacists, Piero Uroda, suggested condoms were responsible for increased rapes and violence.

"We're giving sugar to the diabetic," he told Radio 24 Il Sole 24 Ore.

Panaccione said condom distribution was only part of the sex education curriculum. The school enrolls about 860 students aged 15-19 at two venues — one in a lower-middle class neighborhood, one in a blue-collar area.

Panaccione said the decision was taken because of the rising number of HIV cases among young people and to break a taboo still surrounding the use of condoms in Italy.

LILA, a national association for the prevention of HIV/AIDS, said distributing condoms could help combat HIV among the young.

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Poll: Do condom machines belong in high schools?

Teen pregnancies have been on the rise in Italy, although not sharply. According to the latest figures made available by national statistics agency ISTAT, there was a 0.5 percent increase in teen pregnancy between 2006 and 2007.

On average, Italian women have sex for the first time at age 16, according to SIGO, a group of Italian gynecologists and obstetricians. Almost four in 10 have unprotected sex the first time.

Elsewhere in Europe
European countries including Belgium, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands have had instances of schools selling condoms. Spain, like Italy a predominantly Catholic country where the church still has some influence on society, has a few schools in the Catalonia region with condom vending machines.

In France, nearly 96 percent of high schools — public schools and private schools that receive state funds — have condom vending machines, according to a survey conducted by the Education Ministry last year. The prevalence results from a 2006 government circular urging high schools to install them.

However, students at Lycee Carnot, a public high school in western Paris, appeared divided Thursday about whether condom dispensers in their school were useful.

"I think it is a good idea. More is better than less. And it is less expensive than in a drugstore," said Alexis Freiberg, an 18-year-old.

There have been some cases of condoms being distributed at public schools in the United States, but it is not commonplace.

In Italy, the only other reported case of a condom-vending machines was in a Turin school over a decade ago. ANSA reported the machines were eventually removed since they weren't being used.

The Vatican still has some influence on Italian society and politics. Its views on sexuality, marriage and contraception are often echoed by the powerful Italian Bishops' Conference and typically get significant coverage.

Panaccione said the reason Italy is less progressive regarding sex education than other countries lies not with the Vatican alone, but also with the "duplicity and reluctance of many families, which to this day still look the other way."

"To them this is a dogma: One must not talk about it, only do it — secretly!" he said.

Elena Bucchinelli, a high-school student in Rome, said she approved of the Keplero initiative.

"We young people are the most vulnerable to the risks of unprotected sex. Schools and families are the best places to receive this kind of information," the 16-year-old said, as she drove her moped to a public school in downtown Rome.

"Many young people think they know all that there is to know about sex," she said, "but that's not true."

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Kylie - posted on 03/16/2010

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My sister was known as the condom crusader :-D In the nineties in Tasmania she led a campaign to get condom machines installed at her college (all these kids are 16 and over). It caused uproar, and in the end she won, it was decided that under Tasmanian/Australian law its the decision of the school head to decide whether to allow them or not.

Most teenagers are not like me. I was 21 and married before I had sex for the first time! It's just unrealistic to expect kids to wait to have sex. If its gonna rain, wear a rain coat.

[deleted account]

I'm sure I'm going to have a minority and unpopular decision on this issue lol, but I think this is a great idea. Not only does it save embarrassment, but it also keeps teens safe. And no one is saying you have to use them, but as a teen it would be reassuring to me if they were there knowing that I had a "safe" place to buy condoms. I also go to a school where condoms are not available in the school nurse's office so I think this is a good idea and should have been implemented a long time ago and maybe it would have saved someone from getting an STD or getting pregnant.



As a person from an area with one of the HIGHEST teen pregnancy rate in the WHOLE United states this would save a lot of people the trouble and the pain and the embarrassment and reputation that would come along with someone just having sex one night and getting pregnant or getting HIV. Great idea!!!

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LaCi - posted on 03/18/2010

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we didn't have to pay for condoms. There was a candy dish full of them at the front desk. ;D

My mother always told me if I ever needed them to pleasepleasplease tell her. She'd rather I didn't get knocked up or ill. Of course she put me on birth control asap as well. For the kids who didn't have awesome moms like mine, there was the candy dish-often paraded around the hallway for distribution. We can't rely on parents all the time after all.

Amy - posted on 03/16/2010

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IN our schools they have condom machines right next to the tampon machines. Girls are more likely to buy condoms and its less embarrasing for teens to buy condoms in a bathroom then at a grocery store. I would rather have teens practicing safe sex then risking their lives.

[deleted account]

I think Catholicism has nothing to do with this really. People outside of religion disagree with this idea. I think this is a stupid idea to be quite honest. Fair enough educate teenagers about sex and contraception, giving the appropriate information as to where you can access contraception. If they don't want to use contraception they won't and if they're too embarassed to go to a sexual health clinic, the doctors or a store to buy them then they'll be too embarassed to use a vending machine in school!

Johnny - posted on 03/16/2010

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Actually, just thinking about it, I did know 2 girls who did get pregnant in high school. One was in Catholic school and the other was homeschooled. LOL. I guess her parent's didn't put in a condom machine in their bathroom.

Johnny - posted on 03/16/2010

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When I was in school, all the high schools where I lived had condom machines and still do. They put them in here back in the early 90's. I don't think that the kids where I grew up have any more sex than kids elsewhere, but at least they've always had access to safer sex if they needed it. Abstinence has always been promoted, but we all learned about how to prevent pregnancy and STD's if we were to have sex. And got plenty of lectures on the emotional aspects of becoming sexually active as well. The whole entire time I was in high school, I did not actually know of a single girl who got pregnant in my school or any of my friend's schools. There was a small program for teen moms at one of the schools in my city, but it really was not common at all. Perhaps the machines work. And I suspect education does too.

Sophie - posted on 03/16/2010

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I wish I had better access to condoms as a teenager to be completely honest, I remember having friends who stole them from stores because they weren't available. One got caught stealing them and got in big trouble. Save them the embarassment and ridicule and accept the fact that teens are having sex and make sure that they can get ahold of them if need be. Would make for some better decisions.

Brandy - posted on 03/15/2010

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If they decide they are going to have sex, they are going to do it whether they have a condom or not. I think teens should be educated thoroughly on sex so that they know what can happen and protection should be made available to prevent the further spread of disease as well as teen pregnancy. My sex ed teacher in school left a fish bowl of condoms on his desk at all times and told us that he always leaves the door to his classroom open when he is gone for lunch so that the teens who were ashamed to be seen taking one, could do so in privacy. And they were free so why wouldn't anyone take one? Oh, and he also made it a part of his class to bring bananas in one day and let everyone learn how to properly put one on. lol. That always got alot of laughs. I think vending machines is a great idea.

[deleted account]

I think teaching abstinence all year long sort of defeats the purpose of a condom machine...the kids are obviously sexually active so I would think just teaching the kids and giving them safe means of protection is a better idea...it has been prover time and time again that abstinence only education fails miserably in schools and often pushed the teens to have unsafe unprotected sex because they know no better.

Rose - posted on 03/14/2010

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Condom machines in school is a very good idea. It would cut back on teen pregnancy and STD's. They could use the money for a day care in the school or maybe hire someone to help the children learn about abstinence all year round instead of a couple of weeks a year.

Jenny - posted on 03/13/2010

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I don't think you'll be in the minority at all Meghan. I also think it's a good thing. BC should be accessable to the people who need it and that includes teens.

Jessica - posted on 03/13/2010

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ugh...The Vatican....thats a whole other topic. I happen to agree with you Meghan. If the teens are gunna have sex, they are going to do it with or without those condom machines...that being said, this way at least hopefully they will make the right descision and choose to wrap it up!

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