Check In, Get Tested, Get A Badge

Robin Marty

Wanna by the mayor of STD testing? Foursquare has launched a new partnership, and it could make a difference for sexual health.

I’ll admit I have a love/hate relationship with Foursquare.  I very seldom make it out of the house, which made my “crunked” badge that much more embarrassing, and when you are the mayor of such hot places as your local library, a CVS pharmacy, and not one but TWO different healthcare centers, you start to feel a little, well, lame.

But Foursquare, the mobile application that allows you to announce your personal location and activities via facebook and twitter, has partnered with MTV to add a new badge that they hope will take any stigma and embarrassment out of having a healthy sex life.

Via Mashable:

“STD testing center” seems like number three on a list of “Embarrassing Places to Check in on Foursquare,” but this September, MTV and the geo-location service are aiming to quash that stigma by offering a badge to all those who get tested as part of MTV’s GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign.

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The GYT campaign marks a milestone for Foursquare, which has never offered a cause-related badge before.

MTV launched GYT in April of 2009 as part of a partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation titled “It’s Your (Sex) Life.” The initiative seeks to help young people become more aware of how common STDs are — according to MTV, one in two people will contract an STD by age 25. For more info on getting tested and staying healthy, you can head on over to MTV’s “It’s Your (Sex) Life” page.

The Foursquare partnership encourages people to follow MTV on Foursquare, check in after getting tested and shout “GYT” to their followers. After doing so, users will earn the GYT badge, and thereby make it known that they’re taking control of their sex lives. Those who score the badge will also be entered to win a trip for two to New York City, as well as backstage passes to MTV’s 10 on Top.

So, will people check in and display their badge proudly?  In honor of the new endeavor, I will attempt to get my own when I go to my own clinic to do more prenatal care and testing (prenatal care is taking charge of your sex life too, right?).

And if they won’t give me a badge, at least I should maintain my reign as mayor of the place.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: New York City Doesn’t Really Have a Masturbation Booth

Martha Kempner

This Week In Sex: Sex education gets controversial in Omaha, senior men need a refresher course on HIV risk, a new sex toy helps strengthen pelvic floor muscles, and NYC's masturbation booth is just a marketing gimmick.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

School Board Meetings Get Heated as Omaha Updates Sex Ed for First time in 30 Years

For the first time in about three decades, the school district in Omaha, Nebraska, is updating its sexuality education program. In addition to including new scientific research on growth, development, and medications, the proposed curriculum includes discussions of gender identity and gender roles starting in sixth grade, a lesson on sexual orientation beginning in seventh grade, and information about abortion and emergency contraception in the tenth grade lessons on birth control. All of these topics had been previously excluded from the program.

Most members of the community seem to be on board with the possible changes. In fact, of the nearly 4,000 community members who reached out to the school district via phone or email, reported local television station WOWT, 93 percent supported the overall shift. But at recent school board meetings, the small minority who disapproved were very vocal, to say the least.

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Kathryn Russell, a former employee of the Omaha school district, argued that the change “rapes children of their innocence.” Another speaker bemoaned, “Marriages never make it into the picture of sex education in the schools.”

Still, school administrators argued that many of those opposing the changes were not actually members of the community.

School member Marque Snow told WOWT in December, “So that is the thing with controversial topics like this, is when you do open that up to the public, you get people who aren’t from the district or aren’t from the community commenting … and it kinda skews that view a little bit.”

Despite the controversy, at a meeting this week, the board voted unanimously to approve the changes to the fourth-grade, fifth-grade, and middle school curricula. The changes to the tenth-grade program were also approved with a vote of 8 to 1. Though the board had considered removing information on abortion and emergency contraception from the lesson plans, the package voted on this week still included these topics.

Of course, not everyone is pleased with the board’s decision. Gwen Easton, a mother in the district, told WOWT, “I don’t think they spoke for 52,000 kids or their parents. I don’t. I think that they had their minds made up all along to what they were going to decide to do and it doesn’t matter whether parents like it or not because that is what they are telling parents: It doesn’t matter what they think.”

Older Men Who Pay for Sex Need Some Safer Sex Reminders

A survey of men who have paid for sex found that the older they were, the less likely they were to use condoms in those interactions.

Researchers from the University of Portland identified 208 men between the ages of 60 and 84 who had paid for sex and asked them about their sexual behavior, condom habits, and perceived risk of disease.

More than half of the men surveyed said they did not always use condoms with sex workers. Forgoing protection was most common when men were receiving manual masturbation or oral sex.

Many of the men did not perceive themselves to be at risk for sexually transmitted infections—three-quarters reported that they perceived their likelihood of becoming infected with HIV as “low” and only about 60 percent reported having been tested for HIV. However, the men who reported more unprotected sex acts did perceive their HIV risk to be higher.

In addition, 29 percent of the men reported having an “all-time favorite” sex worker with whom they had sex repeatedly. The researchers found that in these cases, men were more likely to engage in unprotected sexual intercourse. The lead study author noted in a statement, “There is a nearly universal perception that older men do not pay for, or even engage sexually with regular frequency. This view may contribute to a false sense of security for both clients and sex workers during their encounters, and may lead to less protective strategies than with younger purchasers of sex.”

Perhaps it’s time for a safer sex refresher course for, and about, seniors.

New Sex Toy Measures Pelvic Floor Strength

OhMiBod, a maker of high-end sex toys, recently released the Lovelife Krush exerciser designed to help women strengthen their pelvic floors. Suki Dunhan, the company’s founder, explained in a statement that most women lose strength in these muscles due to childbirth or just age. She added: “Our Lovelife Krush measures the pressure, control, endurance, and grip of [pubococcygeus muscles] and helps women strengthen them through training challenges.” This, she said, “can lead to stronger, more intense orgasms.”

The device, a small bulb inserted into the vagina, is Bluetooth-enabled and comes with access to an app that sets goals and guides users through a pelvic floor workout, during which they squeeze and release muscles.

Strong pelvic floor muscles not only aid in orgasm; they can also help women overcome issues such as vulvodynia and incontinence.

New York City’s New “Masturbation Booth” Is Nothing More Than a Marketing Gimmick

There have been a number of stories this week about a new “masturbation booth” being installed in New York City. The “GuyFi” booth was originally announced in a press release by the sex toy company Hot Octopuss. Adam Lewis, the company’s co-founder, said in the release, “At Hot Octopuss we are all about looking for new solutions to improve everyday life and we feel we’ve done just that with the new GuyFi booth. We hope the city’s men enjoy using the space we’ve created in whatever way they want.”

The structure consists of a phone booth modified with a wireless connection, black curtain, chair, laptop, and a Hot Octopuss ad.

Of course, public masturbation is illegal in New York City. As questions mounted about how real this was, the company backpedaled a bit. A spokesperson told Mashable: “We may be insinuating that these booths could be used in whichever way anyone would like to ‘self soothe,’ but the brand is not actively encouraging people to masturbate in public as that is an illegal offense.”

If the goal was publicity, this campaign was a success. If the goal was to create a good place for men to masturbate during the workday, well, they’re just going to have to keep looking.

Commentary Sexual Health

Protect Yourself: National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

Hannah Green

April 10 is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, the first awareness day to recognize the impact of the AIDS epidemic specifically on teens and young adults.

Published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

See all of our coverage of STD Awareness Month 2013 here and our coverage of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day here.

April 10 is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD), the first awareness day to recognize the impact of the AIDS epidemic specifically on teens and young adults. Young people today have never known a world without HIV. Yet new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that one in four new HIV infections occur among youth ages 13 to 24, and half of all new sexually transmitted disease (STD) cases each year are among youth. NYHAAD, which falls in the middle of STD Awareness Month, is a great way for young people to participate in STD prevention and awareness, including related to HIV.

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is pleased to be a founding partner of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. We at NCSD know that adolescents need to be a major focus of our HIV and other STD prevention initiatives, as profound and persistent health inequities continue to affect young people’s sexual health. We know that including young people in the promotion of sexual health is critical to preventing STDs and HIV, and young people are stepping into their role as empowered sexual health advocates like never before. Youth around the country are planning community events, organizing free HIV and STD testing, and working with their peers to raise the profile of sexual health issues.

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National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day works within STD Awareness Month to encourage young people to play a role in preventing STDs.

With the support of their communities, this month we hope young people make it a priority to:

  • Get tested. Most young people are not getting tested for HIV and STDs, making it more likely for them to transmit the virus to others.

  • Be bold. If you choose to be sexually active, use a condom every time. And don’t wait for your doctor to ask you about getting tested—just ask!

  • Speak up. Talk to your partner, your doctor, your friends, and yes, even your parents, about HIV and STDs. Speaking up breaks down stigma and makes sexual health easier to talk about. Contact your local school board and let its members know that you and your fellow students deserve medically accurate information about sexual health and disease prevention. Write to your elected officials and let them know that HIV impacts young voters like never before.

While the factors that put each of us at risk for HIV and STDs are complicated, we need young people to speak up about what matters most when it comes to sexual health. Ona Wang, Youth Ambassador for Advocates for Youth, says:

“What we want in the creation of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is for everyone—governments, our schools, our community leaders, our parents, our friends—to truly commit to protecting young people from HIV and AIDS. That means providing us with the right information, access to services, and support. Young people will lead the way, if you stand with us.”

Youth leadership and youth ownership over sexual health issues like STD and HIV prevention is more important than ever if we want to make a difference in our community’s health. Join us in making National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day a lasting resource, tribute, and day of participation for young people.