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Canada: Sex-Ed Goes Thumbs-First With Text Services

November 19, 2009

Toronto's new text-messaging program, "TOHealth," is one among many initiatives that use texting- and Web-based services to provide sexual health information to teens. On the Web, Seattle-based recently began a texting service for its 10,000 US visitors a day, and there are tentative plans to make it available in Canada, where about 1,250 Web visitors use the site daily.

"Texting is just huge with teenagers," said Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen. The site is run by 15 trained volunteers, many of whom study in health-related fields, Corinna said.

"Some of the questions are really immediate," said Corinna. "Somebody who used a condom for sex and had a condom break, and asks you what to do and didn't know about emergency contraception, you can tell them about it really, really quickly. It's good to be able to help them like that in real time."

The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina debuted a texting service in February called the "Birds and Bees Text Line." Toronto's program does not offer the personalized responses of BBTL, but there are plans to add this feature. Currently, by texting "TOHealth" to the number 365247, youths in Toronto can receive free automated sexual health information and referrals.

"We're trying to get out there and get the information to them in a way that seems very private and personal," said Michelle Hamilton-Page, project leader of TOHealth.

Back to other news for November 2009

Adapted from:
Edmonton Journal
11.17.2009; Laura Stone, Canwest News Service

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
More on HIV Prevention in Young People


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