Social media sites and applications like blogs, email, forums and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube allow us to connect with people and share information regardless of geographic location. More than 62% of Australian visit social media sites regularly. Australian under 25 years old ranked as “the world’s most prolific users.” About 97% of 16 and 17 year olds login to update their profiles, post comments and messages everyday.
Young people spend an additional three hours per day on the internet using digital technologies like cellphone, tablet and smart devices. They spend more time with social media and other digital media than they spend in other activity. The internet become their primary source of
information about sexual health topics like contraception advice and sexually transmitted infection screenings before they speak to doctors. Yet in this era of technology, a lot of youth still lack awareness on safe sex and sexually transmitted infections.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the youth today. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection transmitted through oral, anal and genital intercourse. It is often asymptomatic so most people did not know they have it. 64% of people infected with Chlamydia are under 25 years old. The increasing number of Chlamydia cases can be attributed to the failure to practice safe sex by using condoms. If left untreated chlamydia can lead to serious health consequences including ectopic pregnancy and infertility. However it is easy to diagnose through urine test and swab and can be treated with antibiotics.
Health organizations are now using social media to get the message to young people about the importance of chlamydia screening to prevent infection and reinfection. Social media have been the preferred medium because it is the place where young people get information and communicate. It appealed to youth because of convenience, privacy and anonymity. 50% of teenaged users disclosed information about sexual risk behaviours in social media.
An example of social media campaign is #YorClear, it’s a Chlamydia innovative awareness campaign launched in Instagram. This campaign aims to promote the message that everybody should get tested for Chlamydia. Users were asked to take a test and join a picture wall of others who took the test and post it in their Instagram account. The result of the campaign was 30% increase in the uptake of Chlamydia screening.
Social media networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn are now being used for sexual health promotion. The influence of social media on chlamydia prevention was evident in some studies made to measure its effectiveness. Studies found that social media is a good way to make the youth become more aware of the chlamydia and its long term effects.
Studies also found that social media can be a tool for sexually transmitted infection testing as well as online counseling and education. Findings cover 23% self-reported increase in condom use, and a 54% reduction in reported chlamydia cases among 15-17 year olds. Chlamydia campaigns on social media were effective for encouraging high risk groups to use condoms and get themselves tested. Key factors for success is the large active user base, this intervention can also be used for other future health promotion activities.