Find yourself tsk-tsking at all those teens laser-focused on text messaging from their cellphones when they could be playing outside or, say, talking to each other? Turns out some of them -- in San Francisco, anyway -- may be getting some essential, private information about their sexual health.
As today's Chronicle reports, San Francisco this week became the first U.S. city to make safer-sex advice available to young people via their cellphones. "Users send the message 'sexinfo' to one of two phone numbers set up by the health department," the article explains, "and within seconds get a reply asking them to clarify their question by choosing one of several options, including what to do about a broken condom and how to respond to pressures to have sex." Most interactions end with a phone number to call for more information.
The "SexInfo" program, modeled on a similar initiative in London, was developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health with input from teen focus groups and a consortium of community health organizations. According to a DPH press release, it is primarily a response to dramatically rising rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among San Francisco's African-American youth. "Gonorrhea puts young women at increased risk for infertility and other serious medical problems," said Jeffrey D. Klausner, director of STD prevention and control for the DPH. "In both women and men, gonorrhea increases the risk of getting HIV. SexInfo is remarkably innovative, timely and addresses a key way young people today access information. It will make it easier for young people to get tested and treated quickly for these types of infections."
Makes sense to me: no hiding your browser history from nonsupportive parents, fewer potentially overheard phone calls -- in short, a minimum of roadblocks between teens and information, and medical attention, they may need fast. Let's hope other cities soon follow suit.
(FYI: From MetroPCS phones, text SEXINFO to 917-957-4280; from all other phones, text SEXINFO to 36617.)