Australia: Sex Health Advice Now Available by Text Message
October 16, 2006
Marie Stopes International (MSI, which provides sexual and reproductive health care services worldwide, recently launched "sextxt," a messaging service targeted to 16- to 25-year-olds that will send advice on pregnancies, unprotected sex, emergency contraception, and STDs directly to mobile phones in text young people understand. The service aims to combat recent figures showing Australia with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the world, said Suzanne Dvorak, MSI Australia's CEO.
National data show Australians ages 15-29 are the most at-risk group for STDs, accounting for more than 60 percent of chlamydia infections in 2005. The average age for first-time sex in Australia is 16, and 45 percent of sexually active secondary school students do not consistently use condoms.
"Many young people don't feel comfortable talking to their parents, or people they know well, about sexual health and are looking for other ways to find the information," said Axle Whitehead, a sextxt youth ambassador and Network Ten Video Hits presenter.
Users text "sexinfo" to 19sextxt and receive a reply within a minute. The reply presents seven options for automated assistance on sexual health issues. Users will be directed to Web sites or telephone hotlines for further assistance.
Advice on "emrgncy contrcptn" for example, would read "U cn gt mrng aftr pill at chmist U dnt need scrpt or 2 c a dctr Wrx up to 3 dys aftr u hv sex. Lngr u wait = less likely 2 wrk."
Users pay 55 cents Australian (41 US cents) per message, but Dvorak stressed the service is not about making a profit. "sextxt is a not-for-profit service," she said. "All call charges go towards the cost of the return messages and to pay the phone service providers."
Australian Associated Press
10.12.2006; Katelyn John