Safe sex apps anyone?

Now Planned Parenthood has introduced new QR-coded condoms that take social sharing to a different level.

As part of National Condom Week (Feb. 14 - Feb. 21), Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest distributed 55,000 condoms throughout western Washington. The condom packaging contained QR codes, barcodes that can be scanned by smart phones which direct users to a mobile website. The website, a geo-location service website that allows users to “check-in” their safe sex activity. The site is intended to promote healthy sexuality and encourage social media users, to “be proud to wear protection,” Planned Parenthood said in a written statement. “ is like Foursquare for people who don’t want a sexually transmitted infection,” PPGNW said on its website.

“Condoms are an essential tool in preventing unintended pregnancy and stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV,” Nathan Engebretson, new media coordinator for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, said in the statement. “We hope the site promotes discussions within relationships about condoms and helps to remove perceived stigmas that some people may have about condom use. Where Did You Wear It attempts to create some fun around making responsible decisions,” he said.

According to Planned Parenthood, one in two sexually active persons will get a sexually transmitted disease by age 25 - and most won't know it. Every year, there are approximately 15 million new cases of STDs.

The check-in map can be searched by gender, orientation, approximate age and location, among other filters. But Planned Parenthood said it wouldn't invade privacy. “We intentionally made it so you couldn't zoom in superclose,” Engerbretson told CNET. “We really wanted to give people an option so they could see their check-in reflected on the map but at the same time give them some privacy.”

While the project may seem to be just another social media example of  TMI,  Engebretson said the point was to get people talking about safe sex, and to “normalize” and celebrate condom use. “This isn’t about bragging. It’s not about digital notches in your bedpost,” Engebretson told ABC News. “Even if people have no desire to check in, they’re still getting the sense of how many people like them use condoms.” PPGNW’s target audience was college students and ‘20-somethings’, a group more likely to use social media - and condoms. A 2010 study from sexual health researchers at Indiana University found that U.S. teenagers and young adults were more likely to use condoms during sex than Americans over age 40.

But Engebretson said PPGNW wants to know more about what makes people use condoms , or not. He said the next phase of the project would be to analyze the data from various groups and tailor a marketing campaign to work more condoms into sex for those people.

However a recent study from Kinsey Institute suggests that just because a person is using a condom doesn't mean they're practicing safe sex. The study found many people don't know how to use condoms correctly, with common errors including not using condoms throughout sex, not leaving space or squeezing air from the tip of the condom, putting condoms on upside down, not using water-based lubricants, and incorrect withdrawal.

According to study author Dr. Richard Crosby, public health professor at the University of Kentucky, encouraging condom use and accessibility is important, but so is the need to improve clinic-based counseling and public education efforts.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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