Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Free Sex Kits for Kids as Young As13

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Free Sex Kits for Kids as Young As13

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH JUDD

TEESSIDE Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are offering free condoms and chlamydia testing kits to adolescents as young as 13.

NHS Middlesbrough's Life Store is giving away the free kits and contraceptives in the run up to Valentine's Day, which coincides with National Contraceptive Awareness Week.

"Health trainers" at the store, in The Mall, Middlesbrough, are using the week to promote the C:Card Scheme, which enables youngsters aged 13-25 across Teesside to get free condoms and confidential sexual health advice.

However, concerns have been raised by parents and local religious leaders that giving away free condoms could "promote" sex among early teens and undermine family values.

Gillian McGready, Middlesbrough teenage pregnancy strategy co-ordinator, said: "Although the legal age limit is 16, if the sexual activity is judged to be consensual, young people also have the right to free and confidential advice regarding their sexual health and provision of contraception.

"Young people aged 13 to 16 who access the C:Card Scheme are assessed by staff trained in relation to current legislation. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that young people under the age of 13 cannot consent to any formof sexual activity."

NHS Tees, which offers the free condoms across Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar and Cleveland and Hartlepool, says 80% of under-16s in Middlesbrough are not sexually active.

"All professionals working with young people throughout the NHS Middlesbrough area provide consistent reinforcement of this message," said Ms McGready, who adds the scheme has been developed through consultation with both parents and young people.

"The majority of young people access the service for an opportunity to discuss relationships and their sexual health, and may not request condoms," she said.

Lynne Blackburn, Life Store manager added: "Sexually transmitted infections are on the increase especially among the 13 to 25-year-old age group so we aim to encourage more young people to make sure they practise safe sex. …

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