More than one million Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide. The global rate of unintended pregnancy was estimated at 44% of all pregnancies between 2010 and 2014, corresponding to approximately 62 unintended pregnancies per 1000 women between the ages of 15–44 years old. For this reason, there are several strategies and intervention programs in place to encourage safer sexual behaviours. Yet, the majority of them have shown limited effectiveness. Even when people have good general knowledge about STIs, they usually fail to apply this knowledge to estimate risks associated with their own sexual health.
Evidence indicates that people not only mistakenly believe they are able to recognise risky situations in their everyday lives and avoid STIs, but also that they hold stereotypical beliefs about who is most likely to be infected with STIs. In particular, if the image of a sexual partner is not consistent with the image of someone who is infected with an STI, the possibility that the partner could be infected may be underestimated. Implicit personality theories suggest that a set of assumptions or beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a person indicate whether the person is infected with an STI and often people tend to rely on these to evaluate the risks. For example, a person met in a club may be judged to be more likely to be infected with an STI than someone met at a family dinner, or a person appearing to be fit and healthy might be assumed to not be infected with an STI. Also, people misjudge a partner’s level of STI risk based on their visible or inferred personal characteristics, such as appearance, education, and occupation, or the type of relationship that they have with that partner, such as short/long term, hooking-up, exclusive and open.
Despite considerable efforts to identify sex education interventions that can reduce risky sexual behaviour, behaviour change remains a challenge. Stereotypical societal views about sexuality and parenting among people with disabilities may limit these individuals’ access to sex education and the full range of reproductive health services, and put them at an increased health risk. A study published in 2020 by Horner‐Johnson et.al, reported that pregnancies among women with disabilities are 42% more likely to be unintended than pregnancies among women without disabilities.
The project focuses on an innovative tool for sex and reproductive education in youth. It is aiming at using serious games (mobile application) with augmented reality (AR) features to provide knowledge on sex and reproductive health, making use of adaptive learning features in order to tailor the material delivered based on the user.
Digital interventions offer enormous potential for young people’s sex education and this project's intervention could give young people the potential to engage with the world and their sexual interactions on a different layer (i.e., a digital representation) within which they can come to better understand the ramifications of their risk-taking sexual behaviour via a safer setting. Two-way, interactive and tailored education is a more promising form of education compared to traditional one-way passive education, as early literature evidence suggests.
As sex is a highly private activity, people must overcome their fear of embarrassment in order to reveal to a stranger (teacher, educator, parent etc.) their sex-related thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, issues and doubts when it comes to sex education. Therefore, concerns are raised regarding the effectiveness of traditional sex education interventions that do not adequately address this point and could potentially lead to social exclusion. Safe4Play will target this challenge and the selection of participants will be based on anti-discrimination criteria and in equal basis regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression/religion).