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New Haven Board First To Offer Condoms to Students in 5th Grade

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In a move that broke new ground in school health policy, the New Haven, Conn., school board adopted a plan last month to make condoms available to both middle and high school students through school clinics.

New Haven is the first school system in the nation to offer condoms to students beginning in the 5th grade, according to Robin Hatziyannis, the director of communications for the Center for Population Options.

There are now 50 school-based health clinics in the United States that make condoms available to high school students, she said. But no school system has served students as young as age 10, she noted.

Citing an epidemic level of human immunodeficiency virus infection among teenagers in the city, New Haven school board members reasoned that they had no choice but to make the condoms available underthe district's comprehensive H.I.V./AIDS-prevention plan.

Adolescent AIDS cases in New Haven have increased 77 percent in the last two years, according to a study conducted by the New Haven public schools and Yale University.

"Our schools have attempted to respond to the epidemic,'' a school board statement said, "but it is clear that the enormity of this threat requires more aggressive action.''

Board members who supported the move argued that because adolescents are having sex at an earlier age, information should be available before they become sexually active.

School officials said last week they have not yet decided whether parents will have the option of exempting their children from the program, which is scheduled to begin at one high school and three middle schools this fall.--J.P.

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