Guest blogger and editor/host of The Lancet News podcast Mario gives us his review of this week’s HIV related news stories…

The complexity of teen pregnancy

“There is quite a bit of misconception about early pregnancy and motherhood”, explains Sarah Johns, evolutionary anthropologist and co-author of a recent report about teen pregnancy in the UK, which has the highest teen pregnancy rates in western Europe.

Johns told MTV Staying Alive that the UK Government focuses on just providing sex education and contraception, rather than exploring, or attempting to solve broader social issues.

A view perpetuated by politicians and the media is that teen pregnancy and motherhood results in poverty and lack of education. But the fact is that these socioeconomic risk factors underlie teen pregnancy.

Evolutionary biology could help us to better understand what is driving teen pregnancy in the UK.

Teenagers who see their environment as threatening enter sexual relationships at earlier stages.

This pattern could be explained by the Life History Theory.

“There are well-known links between mortality risk and perception of such risk and reproduction. Put simply, if you perceive that you future prospects are poor, then why wait [to get pregnant]?”, says Johns.

In other words, teens who believe that they don’t have a future might choose to reproduce now rather than waiting.

With this in mind Johns suggests that “strategies could be developed to reduce risk perception”.


Sexting and sex

Sexting (sending sexually explicit text or picture messages) won’t cause sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but it is associated with sexual activity.

Of about 1800 LA high schoolers, 15% engaged in sexting. Those who had sext were more likely to actually be having sex. Similar findings were also reported in Texas earlier this year.

The increasing prevalence of sexting suggests that this behaviour could be perceived as normal among teens.

Perhaps new smartphone technology is creating a new way of exploring sexual identity through sexting.

But sexting isn’t just a harmless, faceless act. If sext messages get into the wrong hands, they can lead to embarrassment and even harassment.

My only question is why keep any record of your naked self on a mobile phone? Haven’t the Rhiana and Prince Harry naked pic sagas taught people anything?

The fact that so many teens have access to mobile phones should be seized upon. Mobiles could act as an effective medium for sexual health messages.


One-handed condom

Possibly the coolest thing I’ve seen this week: the one-handed condom. Check out a demo video here.

Unfortunately this condom is not available in the shops, although it should be.

The idea for this fumble-free condom comes from designer Bejamin Pawle, in an attempt to preserve the dignity and boost the self-confidence of people with hemplegia (when one side of the body is paralysed).

The course of using conventional condoms never did run smooth, and I’m sure many can recall an awkward condom-related moment.

Instead, Pawle sees his one-handed condom as “a mood enhancing tool and next generation contraceptive experience”, which could add charm to the experience. As he describes on his website, “a finger-snap un-wrap turns what would otherwise be a negative mundane experience into something that is positive and captivating.”


Do you think condoms need to be redesigned?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.