Texting to Prevent STIs: Can It Work?


Minnesota is taking the next step in using technology as a means to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections.  The Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline will now be communicating via text message as well as by phone, according to the St. Cloud Times:

The Minnesota Family Planning and STD Hotline announced Wednesday that it has improved its website and will begin providing updated services including Web chat and text messaging, in addition to the toll-free hot line 1-800-78FACTS.The hot line aims to provide confidential health education. By offering personalized text messaging and Web chat options, users will be able to easily access information in the format that is most convenient for them.

Finding new and innovative ways to communicate with clients is especially useful in the technology age, especially as more smart phone, portable computing devices and mobile communication devices become commonplace.

But will STD texting info help reduce the spread of disease, or will we find, like text reminders for birth control, that just because something is innovative, it doesn’t directly translate into successful?  Via iHealthBeat:

Women who receive text message reminders to take oral contraceptives are no more likely to do so than women who do not, according to a study published in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, MedPage Today reports.

For the study, researchers at Boston University recruited 82 birth control pill users from a local Planned Parenthood clinic. The women were given oral contraceptives from an electronic monitoring device that reported missed pills in real time through wireless transmission.

The women were divided into one group that received daily text message reminders to take the pill, while a control group created their own reminder system, such as through a cell phone or clock alarm.

The researchers found that missed pills were common regardless of whether the women were reminded via text messages (Phend, MedPage Today, 8/24).

Of course, providing periodic information via text is quite different from receiving daily reminders.  And in general, anything that could disseminate information in a cost-effective and convenient means is something that should be applauded, especially in a state where cervical cancer is on the rise due to the spread of HPV.

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