The use of new technologies, such as mobile phones and internet, has increased dramatically in recent years. Text messages offer a novel method of sexual health promotion to young people who are the greatest users of new technology and are also at high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
In January 2008, young people aged between 16 and 29 years were recruited from a music festival in Melbourne, Australia. They completed a short survey and were asked to provide their mobile phone numbers. Participants received fortnightly short messaging service (SMS) relating to sexual health for 4 months, and then completed an online follow-up survey. Survey data were weighted to account for those lost to follow-up. McNemar’s test was used to compare changes in survey responses.
A total of 1771 participants were included in analysis as they were sexually active and provided a valid mobile phone number at baseline. In all, 18% (319/1771) withdrew from receiving the SMS during the broadcast period and 40% (587/1452) completed the follow-up survey. The majority reported on the follow-up survey that they found the SMS entertaining (80%), informative (68%), and they showed the SMS to others (73%). Weighted analyses found a significant increase in knowledge (P < 0.01) and STI testing (P < 0.05) over time in both males and females.
The findings indicate that SMS appear to be a feasible, popular, and effective method of sexual health promotion to young people with a relatively low withdrawal rate, positive feedback, and an observed improvement in sexual health knowledge and STI testing.
Gold J, Lim MSC, Hocking JS, Keogh LA, Spelman T, Hellard ME. Determining the Impact of Text Messaging for Sexual Health Promotion to Young People. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2011 Apr;38(4):247-52.