Online trial to encourage condom use is launched

Digital Life Sciences has created an interactive website for young men using sexual health clinics as part of an experiment to see if it will change their sexual behaviour.

The digital healthcare company has been working with University College London’s e-Health Unit to deliver a research project that investigates ways of increasing condom use among men at risk of catching sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The two-year research study will explore whether a website with interactive tools and personalised information, when combined with the usual care given by health advisors and staff in sexual health clinics, can change risky behaviour among heterosexual men aged 18 and 40.

STIs and unwanted pregnancy are major public health problems. Condoms are effective for prevention, but there are many barriers to successful use. The project is designed to find out whether interacting online can help overcome these barriers.

The website, called Men’s Safer Sex, was launched on Monday, 28 April 2014. In partnership with the research team, Digital Life Sciences designed the interactive features and built the online programme.

Julia Bailey, UCL clinical senior lecturer in primary care, said:  “The website offers tailored packages of advice to men on overcoming barriers to using condoms. The site gives hints and tips on the biggest barrier – reduced pleasure – as well as videos and interactive features which tackle some common myths about the risks of getting sexually transmitted infections. The site is now being tested in three NHS sexual health clinics in an online research trial, to see whether it works to increase men’s use of condoms.”

Rob Andrews, DLS senior designer, said: “It was great fun working with UCL and coming up with ideas. It will be very interesting to see how the participants respond to the work we’ve done.”

One example is a feature that suggests which condoms might best suit an individual’s needs, based on the reasons he has given for not liking them. The site also enables the men to set behaviour-changing goals with prompts by text messages and the opportunity for reflection.

The e-Health Unit is part of the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health at University College London and conducts research to find out how internet technologies can improve people’s health. This project has been supported by a Health Technology Assessment grant from the National Institute for Health Research.

 

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