Sex in A New Era: Experts call for ‘rethink’ as technology transforms the sexual health of the Nation

Rapid developments in technology are transforming the face of Australia’s sexual health — both in terms of sexual activity and our means to respond — and Australia needs to ‘rethink’ its approach to keep up with changing times, say sexual experts gathered in Adelaide today.

They are meet­ing for the 2016 Aus­tralasi­an Sexu­al Health Con­fer­ence, run back-to-back with the Aus­tralasi­an HIV & AIDS Con­fer­ence, from Novem­ber 14–18.

These are excit­ing times for those of us work­ing in this sec­tor. We need to look at what the new research is telling us, identi­fy the gaps, and embrace the oppor­tun­it­ies offered through tech­no­logy and innov­a­tion,” said Pro­fess­or Meredith Temple-Smith, Con­fer­ence Co-Con­ven­or and Dir­ect­or of Research Train­ing in the Depart­ment of Gen­er­al Prac­tice, Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne.

Sex Online

Under­stand­ing the impact of por­no­graphy and online sexu­al imagery is a pri­or­ity area.

Most young Aus­trali­ans are exposed to online por­no­graphy by the age of 16, how­ever little is known about its real life impact on their sexu­al social­isa­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, its influ­ence on body image, and the impact of uncon­trol­lable por­no­graphy usage on sexu­al func­tion, arous­al and rela­tion­ships.

_SH16 Twitter Image - Quote - Megan Lim (Media Release) 300px.jpgAcross the nation, demand for labiaplasty con­tin­ues to increase, influ­enced in part by online media present­a­tions of labi­al appear­ance.

Dat­ing sites such as Tinder have been linked to a high­er num­ber of sexu­al part­ners, high­light­ing the need to for sexu­al health pro­mo­tion to increase con­dom use and STI test­ing among Tinder users.

And the increased use of tech­no­logy to per­pet­rate sexu­al viol­ence against women is lead­ing to calls for the inclu­sion of tech­no­logy in con­di­tions of pro­tec­tion orders.

The online arena is also offer­ing new aven­ues for the deliv­ery of care.

Nurse Net­tie” – a con­fid­en­tial online sexu­al health ser­vice for young people – provides online answers with­in 24 hours, allow­ing a lar­ger num­ber of young people to receive tailored inform­a­tion about their sexu­al health in a con­veni­ent, con­fid­en­tial and trus­ted way.

Medical Innovation

Tech­no­lo­gic­al advances in pre­ven­tion, test­ing and treat­ment could also trans­form aspects of care.

Tri­als of a new, molecu­lar Point-of-Care test for sexu­ally trans­miss­ible infec­tions (STIs) found it sub­stan­tially increased the timeli­ness of treat­ment. This could change the face of sexu­al health pro­grams in remote and rur­al areas where STI pre­val­ence is high and access to con­ven­tion­al labor­at­ory dia­gnos­is is prob­lem­at­ic.

In repro­duct­ive health, advances in IVF and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of egg-freez­ing ser­vices are going hand in hand with advanced par­ent­al age. But what does that mean for women, men and the next gen­er­a­tion?

Service and Program Innovation

Home-based med­ic­al abor­tion is rad­ic­ally chan­ging access to abor­tion in Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly for rur­al women. Just over a year ago, an Aus­tralia-wide tele­phone con­sulta­tion home med­ic­al abor­tion ser­vice was intro­duced, except in the jur­is­dic­tions which require abor­tion to be per­formed in a hos­pit­al or approved med­ic­al facil­ity. Women in rur­al and region­al loc­a­tions with no access to abor­tion can now use this ser­vice.

New devel­op­ments in cer­vical can­cer screen­ing have also led to a re-eval­u­ation of how Aus­tralia will deliv­er its nation­al screen­ing pro­gram from May 2017.

Not just technology:  Other areas in need of a ‘rethink’

Health experts warn, how­ever, that it is not only areas relat­ing to tech­no­logy and innov­a­tion that need a rethink. Tra­di­tion­al mod­els of care where indi­vidu­al aspects of sexu­al health are addressed in isol­a­tion also require reform.

Sexu­al health plays a huge role in the lives of every­day Aus­trali­ans. It goes way bey­ond the treat­ment and pre­ven­tion of sexu­ally trans­miss­ible infec­tions to include sexu­al iden­tity, gender iden­tity, psychoso­cial aspects, pos­it­ive sexu­al enjoy­ment, repro­duct­ive health, address­ing gender based viol­ence, health promotion/education and more. The mul­tiple dis­cip­lines involved in these areas need to come togeth­er and work col­lab­or­at­ively to deliv­er integ­rated care address­ing the full range of sexu­al health needs,” said Dr Car­ole Khaw, Con­fer­ence Co-Con­ven­or and Con­sult­ant Sexu­al Health Phys­i­cian, Roy­al Adelaide Hos­pit­al.