Children as young as 11 years old are encouraged to get free condoms sent to them, compliments of the Philadelphia Public Health Department.
Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky was first alerted to the city’s youth-oriented condom campaign by a horrified mother, and upon perusal of the health department’s website takecontrolphilly.org, Polaneczky herself was a bit depressed by what she found.
“If you live in Philadelphia and you are between the ages of 11 and 19, all you have to do is fill out the form below and we'll put together a package for you,” the site states.
The site includes graphic cartoon penis animation, which demonstrates the proper way to put on a condom, simulates what happens while the condom is worn, and then shows how to properly remove a used condom.
There is also an explicit animation of how to insert a female condom, which includes depictions of sex.
Gary Bell, executive director of Bebashi-Transition to Hope, the local non-profit that works to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, told Polaneczky that these measure are necessary for the city’s youth.
"We do more workshops in middle schools than in high schools," Bell told Polaneczky. "Teachers call us because their kids are acting out sexually. They'll catch them in the bathroom or the stairwell. They hear that kids are cutting schools to have orgies.”
And while the idea of 11-year-olds having sex is a grim one, and parents who are blessed with the time and resources to properly parent their children don’t like for them to be exposed to sex at such a young age, City Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz says that a recent survey of sixth-graders in West Philly showed that 25 percent of the 11-year-olds had already had sex.
"Clearly, we don't think it's OK for 11-year-olds to be having sex," says Schwarz. "But we don't have the infrastructure in place to fix [that] problem fast. We can, however, make condoms available fairly quickly to whoever needs them.”