New Zealand Launches Sexual Health Campaign Targeting Young People To Address High STD Rates
New Zealand's Health Minister Annette King on Monday launched a new sexual health campaign encouraging young people who are sexually active to use condoms in an attempt to control the high rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the country, Xinhuanet reports. The campaign -- which has the slogan, "No Rubba, No Hubba Hubba," meaning "no condom, no sex" -- discusses various issues in youth sexual health and the consequences of sexual activity. The campaign is disseminating its messages using a variety of media, including television, cinema, radio, outdoor advertising, magazines, leaflets, and print and online resources, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 11/22). The "in-your-face" campaign will run through February 2005, the New Zealand City reports (New Zealand City, 11/22). King said that although the topic of sexual activity among teenagers can be "uncomfortable" for some people to discuss, it is the government's "obligation" to be realistic and upfront about the situation, according to a government release. "Sexually active young people must be given the information and tools to protect themselves" from STDs, King said (Government release, 11/22). The numbers of newly diagnosed cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in New Zealand have risen significantly over the past five years, with increases of 65.5% and 57%, respectively, according to New Zealand's Stuff. In addition, about 50% of new chlamydia cases diagnosed in women in 2003 occurred among girls ages 19 and younger, Stuff reports.
Acting Ministry of Health Public Health Director Doug Lush said that New Zealand's high rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea need to be "tackled head on," according to Stuff. "We can pretend that our young people are not sexually active and watch our sexually transmitted infection rates continue to climb, or we can be proactive and realistic and give sexually active young people the tools to protect themselves," he said. Sue Bagshaw, the ministry's youth sexual health specialist, said that the campaign's message to use a condom is "vital" because many young people "don't understand just how easy it is to contract and pass on an STI," Stuff reports (Stuff, 11/22). Bagshaw also encouraged honest discussion of sex as part of "normal everyday life" instead of "something dirty" that people avoid talking about, according to the New Zealand City (New Zealand City, 11/22). New Zealand AIDS Foundation Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier called the campaign "timely" because HIV prevalence rates are increasing among high-risk groups, including men who have sex with men and injection drug users, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 11/22).
"We owe it to our young people to support an approach toward sexual health that reflects the reality that the number of young people who have contracted a sexually transmitted infection is growing rapidly and that recognizes the findings of studies that show more than 20% of secondary school students are sexually active," King said in a speech on Monday to launch the campaign. She said she is "optimistic" that the campaign will reach young people because teenagers participated in the development of the campaign, which is expected to appeal to different cultures in an easy-to-understand, appropriate manner. King said that the new campaign does not promote abstinence because although such programs may help to delay sexual intercourse, studies show that young people in the programs are less likely to use condoms or contraceptives once they do engage in sexual activity, putting them at risk for contracting and spreading STDs. She said that additional funding would go toward producing pamphlets with abstinence messages. Countries with low rates of STDs and teen pregnancy usually have "open and honest discussion about sex and sexuality," as well as "access to free or low-cost contraception," King said. Condoms are "extremely effective" in preventing pregnancy and protecting against STDs when used correctly, King said, adding that young people need proper information to protect their health and fertility. King said that the campaign's overall message to young people is: "You are important, your health is important. If you are having sex, use a condom" (Government transcript, 11/22).