YouTube Will Post Dirty Joke Videos to Teach Young Men About STDs
Using YouTube videos to poke fun at human sexuality is one way health officials in Australia are promoting a “laughter is the best medicine” approach to raise awareness about the health risks of STDs.
Researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in conjunction with Family Planning Queensland (FPQ) are hoping to reach young Australian men with the message that STDs are harmful and can be easily avoided when taking the proper precautions.
According to a news release from QUT, STDs are a growing problem that shows no sign of abatement:
• Chlamydia rates in Australia have more than tripled in the past decade and 82% of people diagnosed in 2011 were between 15 and 29 years old.
• Teenagers ages 15-19 saw the biggest increase in Chlamydia rates. Between 2001 and 2011 the rate among young men jumped five-fold from 150 to 714 diagnoses per every100,000 people.
• Gonorrhea rates have also jumped in recent years, from 44 diagnoses per 100,000 in 2009 to 65 per 100,000 in 2011.
In the U.S., Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the United States. In 2011, 1,412,791 cases of chlamydia were reported to CDC with an estimated 2.86 million infections occurring annually. Chlamydia is most common among young people and it is estimated that 1 in every 15 sexually active females ages 14-19 years old has chlamydia.
"Historically, sexual health has tended to focus on women and there are many ways young women can and do access that information," says Anthony Walsh from Family Planning Queensland. "But we've found that's not the case with young men. We're hoping the YouTube comedy videos will help normalize sexual health―showing young men that it's okay to talk about it with both friends and health professionals, and that it's okay to have a bit of fun when they do talk about it."
This historical focus Mr. Walsh refers to being primarily toward women is not without merit. Perusing the CDC’s fact sheets on STDs shows a disproportionate image use of females and discussion about the health risks to women who contract chlamydia. To be fair, however, women are at a greater health risk from an infection due to that chlamydia causes pelvic inflammatory disease that can silently progress and damage the reproductive organs and result in infertility as well as an increased risk of developing a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
Guys on the other hand may develop some inflammation in one or both testicles―known as “epididymitis”―that sometimes manifests with pain and fever, but only rarely causes complications that prevents a man from being able to father children. The point though, is that female-centric messaging may add to a young male’s avoidance of STD-related educational resources or misbelief that it is a “female problem.”
The FPQ’s plan to reach out to young men involves the hiring of 11 Queensland comics such as Mike van Acker, Sean Choolburra and Lindsay Webb to discuss key sexual health issues through stand-up comedy, which will be filmed and then posted on YouTube.
Academic support for this plan includes QUT Creative Industries researcher Professor Alan McKee whose research has revealed that one of the most effective ways to reach young men is through vulgar comedy media.
"Sexual health information is traditionally presented in ways your mother would approve of―and young men simply don't respond to that," states Professor McKee. "But they are online and they are responsive to dirty jokes. This project is about testing new ways to make sexual health personal by putting some context around it―it's about taking sexual health out of the laboratory and making it a part of our everyday lives."
According to the press release, the project begins on Wednesday night, May 22, with the Let’s talk about sex comedy gala at the Paddo Tavern's Sit Down Comedy Club, where the acts will be filmed for YouTube.