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

The rugby world cup 2011 and STIs

For the England squad, the rugby world cup 2011 is best forgotten. The same might also be true for some over-excited individuals who got carried away during the sporting festivities.

The attendance of sexual health clinics and the number of STIs was measured during the world cup in New Zealand.

Investigators surveyed attendees of these clinics and reported cases of rugby-world-cup (RWC) related sex; they don’t specify what this kind of sex includes, but it sounds intriguing.

Most (74%) clinic attendees who had RWC-related sex had consumed three or more alcoholic drinks, and only 22% used a condom.

As for STIs, RWC-related sex was associated with increased risk of STIs in men.

When thousands of people converge on one place for a major sporting event, the prospect of more sex is inevitable. So the simplest method to prevent the spread of STIs is to increase accessibility to condoms.

But during the football world cup in 2010, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) were criticised for blocking the distribution of condoms at stadiums.

The rugby and footballing governing bodies should follow the example set by this year’s Olympians, who managed to get through 100,000 condoms.


Drop in condom use associated with hormonal contraceptives

A recent report showed that young women (aged 15–24 years) who started using hormonal contraceptives (ie, oral contraceptive pills, patches, rings, or injections) often stopped using condoms.

When these women stopped taking hormonal contraception later on, they also tended to discontinue condom use.

An imbalance in gender-based power might partially explain why condom use declined in this population. The views of a woman’s main partner might influence her ability to negotiate condom use.

Although the risk of pregnancy can be effectively mitigated with hormonal contraceptives, if condoms are not used the risk of STIs still exist.

Studies have shown that young adults often underestimate potential risks related to STIs.

So, the only sure way to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs is to use the dual method: a contraceptive method plus condoms.

A Facebook “like” for condoms

Social networks spread a lot gossip and a lot of unflattering pictures from the night before, but a new study suggests that social networks could help prevent the spread of STIs among young people.

Researchers recruited 18 to 24 year-old Facebook users who were then split into two groups: the intervention group received information about sexual health and the control group received general-interest news.

After 2 months, of the 942 people in the sexual-health group, 68% reported using a condom during their most recent sexual encounter versus 56% in the control group.

As of October, 2012, there were about a billion active Facebook users; that’s a staggering 1 in 7 people. Making sexual health messages go viral on these networks could inform millions of people.

Speaking of viral sexual health messages, this is one of my favourites.


Are social networks the best way to communicate sexual health messages?

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