MAYOR NUTTER ANNOUNCES CAMPAIGN TO ADDRESS RISING STD RATES FOR PHILADELPHIA YOUTH

Philadelphia, April 7, 2011– Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced the winning design for the City of Philadelphia’s custom labeled condom wrapper, which is making its debut across the city to promote safer sex and address the rise in sexually transmitted diseases among Philadelphia’s youth.

“My administration has made the health and welfare of Philadelphians, especially the underserved and vulnerable, a top priority” said Mayor Nutter. “Educating our residents about how they can protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases is an important task that requires an honest dialogue about protection and prevention. We’ve successfully banned smoking in public places, remained committed to educating residents about healthy food and beverage options, supported the recent introduction of menu-labeling in Philadelphia’s restaurants, and continue to increase recreation opportunities for those who want to live healthier lives. This new campaign is an important part of a broader, ongoing effort to help Philadelphians achieve a better quality of life.”

Over 100 designs were submitted in response to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s condom wrapper design contest. From among five finalists chosen by an expert panel, Michael Bodenberger’s design, The Freedom Condom, was selected as the winner by an online vote held on www.philly.com.

Recent national data indicates that Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of STDs among comparable cities, with African Americans and adolescents being disproportionately affected. The rate for gonorrhea and chlamydia among black adolescents is thirty-three times that for white adolescents. Over nineteen thousand cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010, with approximately 45% of those cases occurring in youths between the ages of ten and nineteen years and 33% occurring in young adults aged twenty to twenty-four years. These numbers only include cases reported by a health care provider or laboratories. Because some STDs do not show symptoms, and many individuals may not seek care because of the stigma surrounding STDs, it is estimated that actual case numbers are actually much higher.

The rise in STD cases across the city and the need to raise awareness of STD/HIV prevention among adolescents have been identified as top concerns for Donald F. Schwarz, M.D., Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity and Commissioner for Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

“According to a national survey of high school youth, Philadelphia has the highest number of youth who have been sexually active, the highest number who became sexually active before age thirteen, and the highest number of youth who have had four or more sexual partners. Yet we have one of the lowest numbers of youth who report using a condom,” said Commissioner Schwarz. “This growing problem poses a clear danger to the future health and welfare of our City. We must do all we can to provide Philadelphians with the information and resources to protect themselves and their families.”

According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 37% of sexually active Philadelphia high school students did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter. In response to this pressing issue, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s STD Control Program sponsored a custom-labeled condom art contest to spark interest and encourage use among youth. The new condom will be distributed at more than one hundred sites across the city in order to increase the availability and accessibility of free condoms. These sites include community based organizations, churches, corner stores, beauty salons, bookstores, health centers and fifteen new teen-friendly locations.

Along with the new condom, a teen website- TakeControlPhilly.org- a Facebook page, and a Twitter account will be launched to communicate with Philadelphia’s youth through a familiar media. Social networking sites will help teens stay connected and allow them to follow important messages about their health and how to best protect themselves from STDs. Priorities of the campaign are to continue adding new youth-friendly condom pick-up locations and launching a new program in which youth can receive condoms through the mail.

Left untreated, STDs can lead to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and more severe complications, including death. Circumstances and behaviors that put individuals at risk of acquiring STDs also put them at risk of acquiring an HIV infection or unplanned pregnancy.

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Posted in Mayor's Press Releases, Press Release
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