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BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2012 Oct 30;12:120. doi: 10.1186/1472-6947-12-120.

Avatars using computer/smartphone mediated communication and social networking in prevention of sexually transmitted diseases among North-Norwegian youngsters.

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NST-Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedicine, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromsø, Norway.



Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterial infection, a common cause of infertility, are highly prevalent in developed countries, and a worrying problem in North Norway, where the incidence of chlamydia twice the Norwegian average. Seventy percent of reported chlamydia cases are found in people below 25 years of age, and although its spread could be controlled with proper prevention, young people are more aware of the risks of unwanted pregnancy than their risk of acquiring a STD. Information and Communication Technologies, including, the Internet, social media and/or smartphones, should be valued for sexual health promotion for their potential to engage young audiences. And in these media, avatars guarantee anonymity to users when handling sensitive information. The main objective of this project is to achieve that North Norwegian youngsters become more aware of STDs through the use of popular technologies among young people.


A Virtual Clinic for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (VCSTD) will be developed. The VCSTD will provide early guidance and reliable information sources concerning reproductive health, delivered in a novel and innovative way to the younger population. The VCSTD consists of an "avatar" supported intervention in a serious gaming and e-learning environment, which will bypass direct physical access (in person) to reliable medical information, as well as allowing the youngsters to share that information in social media, and thus helping the VCSTD to be disseminated to more people.Data analyses will be conducted on publically available health data relevant to STDs in Troms and Finnmark, like the absolute number of chlamydia tests, the amount of emergency contraception medication sold, and the number of abortions. Also, usage data of the system and experiences of usefulness will be explored through participants' voluntary responses to a feedback form available in the VCSTD.


This study will examine the usefulness of an online public health intervention that aims to promote healthy sexual practices among North-Norwegian youngsters. If shown to be effective, the intervention could prove to be an affordable and widely accessible intervention to decrease risky sexual practices in younger population.

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