NEW statistics released last year at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference revealed some disturbing trends about sexually transmitted diseases. They also suggest the safe sex message is not always getting through to young people who need it most.
Chlamydia remains the most frequently reported infection, with heterosexual youth most affected. In one study the proportion of chlamydia positive tests was highest in adolescent girls aged 12-15 years. Increasing rates of gonorrhoea and syphilis infection are also a cause for concern, and experts warn it’s only a matter of time before extensively-drug resistant gonorrhoea reaches Australia’s cities.
To help get the safe sex message to resonate with generation Z who don’t watch TV or read newspapers Professor Alan McKee, Program Head of the Promoting Healthy Sexuality Development Research Group at the Queensland University of Technology, undertook a study on how to improve sexual health education strategies to directly address the surveillance, treatment and control of chlamydial infections.
As one of the outcomes, Professor Alan McKee has teamed up with Girlfriend magazine to release a special edition - Guide to Life - dedicated to this topic. This publication is not yet available online but is on sale for three months at selected newsagents, Big W, Coles and Woolworths.
The 'safe sex' content of the special edition was driven by the following key facts identified in Professor McKee's independently funded research:
- The more education young people get about sex, the later they wait to have sex
- Some young people in Australia are missing out on the most basic biological information
- Young people in Australia have high levels of knowledge about safe sex BUT they do not understand how it is relevant to their real lives
- The levels of chlamydia notifications in Australia are rising.
To help young people understand scientific information, and give them the skills to apply it in their own lives, you need to talk to them in a language they understand and deliver it through channels they use.
Girlfriend magazine reaches over 240,000 Australian teen girls each month and has a combined social media following of 185,000. They call themselves the "teenglish translators and insider to all things teen".
"One thing we noticed in the focus group was Girlfriend magazine kept coming up as a resource they actually read", Professor McKee said. "It is not dismissed as scientific, it’s a real resource they turned to in real life. It seemed to us if we wanted to do a better job of reaching young people, we needed to partner with Girlfriend."
Girlfriend editor Sarah Tarca said the 25-year-old publication prided itself on being an educational resource to teenage girls, not a how-to manual.
She said the magazine jumped at the chance to publish the guide, saying what they heard from their 14 -17 year-old demographic was similar to what Professor McKee heard from his focus groups. "We are not encouraging teens to have sex but arming them with information," she said.
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