By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - There will be something new in many Philadelphia high schools when students return to class next week - free condoms.
Under a city plan, free condom dispensers will be placed in 22 of Philadelphia's 51 high schools after winter break, part of an initiative aimed at battling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases between students.
Parents who do not want their children involved in the program can opt out, school district spokesman Fernando Gallard said on Thursday.
"It's a self-service set-up so you can actually walk into the nurse's office, and there is a dispenser on the wall and you just help yourself to them," he said.
Gallard said the schools were selected for the program based on a report by the city's Health Department that showed rising rates of some sexually transmitted diseases among students.
"STD rates amongst youth in Philadelphia have been alarming, especially the increases in gonorrhea and chlamydia since early 2010," said a statement Thursday from the Health Department.
It added, however, that "as a result of the multi-faceted adolescent STD prevention campaign the epidemic seems to be waning." Continued...