SMS intervention against STDs not effective in young people

Texting young people about safe sex does not reduce the number of chlamydia and gonorrhea reinfections among young people. This is according to British research published in The BMJ.

The researchers tested an intervention in which they promoted safe sex among young people via SMS. Condom use, informing sex partners about an STI, and performing an STI test prior to unprotected sex with a new partner were central to this. More than 6,000 young people took part in the study. They were between 16 and 24 years old and had a chlamydia or gonorrhea infection.

Half of the young people received text messages about safe sex for a year; this started with a few texts a day and ended with a few texts a month. The other half served as a control group and received a text message every month to ask whether the address details were still correct. The main outcome measure was the number of reinfections within one year with chlamydia or gonorrhea.

In the text message group, 22.2 percent of the young people got a new STI within a year. This applied to 20.3 percent in the control group. So the SMS intervention did not have the intended effect; according to the researchers, the intervention may even have backfired. They calculated that the risk of reinfection with chlamydia or gonorrhea was 1.13 times greater in young people who received text messages about safe sex compared to the control group (95% confidence interval: 0.98-1.31).

The researchers doubt whether the intervention actually increases the risk of STDs, as the results conflict with previous studies. But they do not provide a clear explanation for the difference found. For example, young people in both groups took an STI test equally often, and the young people in both groups were comparable. The results emphasize the need to evaluate interventions, according to the researchers. In addition, according to the researchers, the WHO should specify which topics are suitable for digital behavioral change.


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