Is Foursquare the latest health intervention?

On Yahoo News: “Foursquare, MTV to reward STD checkups with badge”. The idea is that you can also check in at a health clinic (which would make a nice change from all those Starbucks check ins), while you are getting tested for STD’s. If you do so, you are awarded with the MTV GYT badge (GYT stands for Get Yourself Tested).

Your first question
To answer your first question, which is ‘why?’: MTV hopes this initiative will help to remove the stigma that is attached to getting tested for STD’s. Which is a very noble cause indeed. Once you’re infected, you might not even realize this (at first). This is why you should always use a condom until you and your partner have both been tested for STD’s. That’s the theory. But that’s not how it works in real life unfortunately. There are many reasons why the intention to use a condom until both partners get tested does not actually get implemented. The act of ‘going to a health clinic and getting tested’ may be one of them.

Why not get tested?
There are several reasons why someone might not get tested. First one is: if you haven’t run a risk of std infection (e.g. you haven’t ever had sex yet) there’s no need. However, some people have run a risk without them being aware of it. For example, some people, like a former US president, do not see ‘oral sex’ as actual sex. Those people might stay away from health clinics. Some people are scared of pain or discomfort during the test, or they are afraid of the result. Other might not even know where to find a health clinic or they’re worried about possible costs involved. And finally there are also people who are simply afraid of somebody finding out they’ve been tested and therefore might be the target of gossip at school or work or in their neighbourhood.

Stigma or marketing
So many possible reasons for not getting tested and MTV focusses on the stigma attached to the STD test. Is that a smart move? To me, it does not appear so. Is it more of a marketing stunt by MTV to fill their brand with social -youth- awareness and online hipness? Sounds more like it. Then again, I am not an American and am not an expert on American culture. And at the same time, it doesn’t really matter. At the very least, both MTV and Foursquare are not using their powers for the Dark Side, but for a worthy cause. As the late university of Maastricht professor (and international safe sex promotion expert) Herman Schaalma used to say; “The best thing you can do when it comes to promoting safe sex, is getting youths to talk about it amongst themselves.”. And notable initiatives like this might help to get them to do so. and perhaps get tested. Even if no one in their right mind would want to be caught dead with a GYT badge.


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