It’s synthetic, fits in your pocket, and can help prevent the spread of HIV. Nope, it’s not a condom—it’s a cell phone, the newest and perhaps most effective way to spread sexual health information.
As of today, mobile phone users in India can send a text to 529222 and, for a small fee, receive sexual and reproductive health information discreetly through their phone. This service could help millions of women and young people in India, who are discouraged from discussing sexual matters in public or who live in remote areas and do not have access to a health clinic.
Programs like this one have been experimented with in the last few years , but with cell phone sales increasing exponentially each year—even among extremely rural communities that lack internet access or reliable electricity—they have the potential to reach more people with sexual and reproductive health information than any other method. Mobile phone sex ed campaigns have even seen success in the U.S.—a program in North Carolina invites adolescents to text sexual health questions to “BrdsNBz”. Each question receives an informative, non-judgmental, confidential, and free response within 24 hours. The program provides an outlet for students who might be too shy to ask personal questions in their school’s sex ed class or whose parents put filters on their home computers that filter out sexual content.
While text-a-question programs and pay-per-minute sexual health advice can’t be nearly as comprehensive or helpful as an in-person visit with a doctor or other medical professional, they do help fill a dangerous gap in health information dissemination and offer a peek into the future of best practices for sexual and reproductive health.
To learn more about IWHC’s work on comprehensive sexuality education, click here.