Delivering sexual health promotion to young people via text messaging

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Texting is an effective way to educate young people about sexual health

Mobile phones, in particular text messaging, offer health promoters an exciting opportunity to engage personally with a huge number of individuals for low cost. Young people in an Australian study viewed text messages as an acceptable and “personal” means of sexual health promotion, particularly valuing the informal language.

Study participants preferred messages that were positive, relevant, short and that covered a variety of topics. They were more likely to remember and share messages that were funny, rhymed and/or tied into particular annual events. The message broadcasting, generally every two weeks on Friday afternoons, was viewed as appropriate. Participants said the messages provided new information, a reminder of existing information and reduced apprehension about testing for sexually transmitted infections.

“As text messages continue to be used not only for health promotion, but also for other health-related functions such as disease self-management, appointment reminders, results of diagnostic testing and partner notification, it is critical to understand the factors that influence such intervention’s success,” the study said. “Beyond SMS [texting], understanding these factors is also relevant to other areas that could be exploited for health promotion purposes, such as updates on social networking sites, where concise formats are also required.”

1. Gold J, Lim MSC, Hellard ME, et al. What’s in a message? Delivering sexual health promotion to young people in Australia via text messaging. BMC Public Health 2010; 10: 792. (open access)

Knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer and vaccines among young women in Brazil

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HPV and cervical cancer education is needed for young Brazilian women

Young Brazilian women of low socioeconomic status were found to have low levels of knowledge of human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer development and prevention, according to a study of women age 15-24 years after their first delivery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Only one third of the women reported having “ever heard about HPV”, despite the fact that the study began 16 days after public news and announcements about the first regulatory approval of one of the HPV vaccines in June 2006, and the fact that the women had relatively high levels of education within the Brazilian context. Only 19 percent and seven percent of the women, respectively, knew that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and that it can cause cervical cancer.

Awareness regarding HPV vaccines was high, with 74 percent of the women mentioning their preventative aspect, and 57 percent of women could identify at least one of the vaccines they had received; that is, they could name the vaccine or the disease which it was intended to prevent.

Despite the possibility to provide a large number of information to mothers during the prenatal and postpartum periods, this group of women had low levels of knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer development and prevention. “Thus, these women could benefit greatly from educational interventions to encourage participation in primary and secondary cervical cancer prevention programs,” the study concluded.

1. Rama CH, Villa LL, Pagliusi S. Awareness and knowledge of HPV, cervical cancer, and vaccines in young women after first delivery in São Paulo, Brazil–a cross-sectional study. BMC Women’s Health 2010; 10: 35. (open access)

Patient-delivered partner therapy for chlamydia in Australia

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An Australian study found that more general practitioners have an unfavorable view of patient-delivered partner therapy (PDPT) for the treatment of sexual partners of patients with chlamydia. PDPT involves the patient delivering antibiotics (e.g., single-dose azithromycin) to their sexual partner(s), without the partner attending a consultation with a health professional.

Studies have shown PDPT to be as effective as, and in some cases more effective, than patient referral in both the proportion of sexual partners treated, and in reducing re-infection rates. PDPT is currently used in Sweden and parts of the United States, and has been recommended as an option for the management of chlamydia in draft guidance from the U.K. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

PDPT provides flexibility for treatment of partners who are unwilling or unable to attend a consultation with a health professional. However, PDPT is a controversial practice as it involves a health professional providing medication for an individual that they have not met, nor clinically evaluated. Appropriate guidelines and legislation may make the use of PDPT more acceptable.

1. Pavlin NL, Parker RM, Piggin AK, et al. Better than nothing? Patient-delivered partner therapy and partner
notification for chlamydia: the views of Australian general practitioners. BMC Infectious Diseases 2010; 10: 274. (open access)