Concern over NHS-backed sex text message service

Children are receiving text messages with advice on sex from a taxpayer-funded service, in a scheme which has been accused of sidelining parents and undermining the age of consent.

The free service is aimed at 13 to 25-year-olds, according to a national newspaper, and works by replying to messages young people send in.

One answer given by text to the Daily Mail on whether it was safe to have sex with more than one person on the same day said it was “a personal decision as to how many people you have sex with”.

Controversial

The newspaper also asked if it is “OK” to take the morning-after pill (MAP) more than once.

The service said it was “safe” to do so and added: “If you have any concerns you could contact you local sexual health clinic.”

There have been no trials to study the repeated use of the MAP and there have been no large clinical trials to study its long-term effects.

Age

Concerns have also been raised that the easy availability of the MAP can ‘lull’ young people into a false sense of security and expose them to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.

The text service, called txtm8, also has a website which answers “Frequently Asked Questions”, and it gives advice on oral sex and where to get free condoms.

According to the Daily Mail those who text in are not asked their age.

Parents

Norman Wells, Director of Family Education Trust, said: “Not only does it undermine parents by presenting itself as an authoritative source of advice on sex, relationships and sexual health, but it also fails to respect the age of consent by offering a service to children under 16.”

Mr Wells added: “The information provided is not even accurate.

“The website fails to tell visitors that condoms provide much less protection against sexually transmitted infections than they do against pregnancy, and says nothing about the health benefits of keeping sex within a lifelong, mutually faithful relationship with an uninfected partner.”

NHS

The service, which was reportedly introduced last year, is said to receive 500 texts a month with 100 advisors employed to answer the messages.

On the txtm8 website it says the service is for, “young people living, working and studying in the London boroughs of Enfield, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Wandsworth”. It says txtm8 is “funded by NHS trusts and local authorities across London”.

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