Wr-App It Up! New Phone Game Encourages Safe Sex Practices

Iceland regularly has some of the highest rates of STI transmission in Europe and in response, the Directorate of Health has gotten creative with its newest public health campaign. Vísir reports that a new smartphone game, Smokkaleikurinn (‘The Condom Game’), is intended to increase Icelanders’ awareness about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and improve their safe sex practices.

“Education has gone down and infections have gone up from year to year,” remarked Björn Thorvaldsson, CEO of Gamatic, which produced the game. “So we’re working to counteract this.”

The point of the game is to use condoms (branded with logos for Durex and the Icelandic pharmacy chain Apótekarinn) to catch sperm and viruses. In between sheathings, not-so-fun facts about STIs pop on the screen, as do encouragements for the player to use condoms.

Screenshot, Stöð 2
Screenshot, Stöð 2

Björn says the game even includes a cameo by “a very well-known Icelander” who will “swim onto screen” to talk about the importance of condom use in a fun way. Although Björn did not name the famous guest star, teasers showing a sperm with a high fade haircut and decked out in a sparkly red jacket point to the Icelander in question being none other than gay icon and beloved pop sensation Páll Óskar, who readers may remember from his headlining stints at Reykjavík Pride, among many others. This wouldn’t be the first time Páll has lent his gravitas to a campaign to promote safer sex practices. In 2013, Páll directed and narrated the short film “Fáðu já!” (‘Get a Yes!’) which spoke about the importance of affirmative consent in all sexual encounters. (Watch the video here, with English subtitles.)

Screenshot, Stöð 2

“Simply put, it’s not smart to not use contraception because it’s no joke to get, as an example, chlamydia, which can make women, in some cases, infertile,” concludes Björn. “Or syphilis, if it’s allowed to progress without treatment, can have really serious consequences.”

Smokkaleikurinn will launch next week and will be available in the Apple app store for iPhones and GooglePlay for Android. At time of writing, it is unclear if the game will be available outside of Iceland.

Chief Epidemioligist Wants Condoms in Primary Schools

Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason wants condoms to be distributed in primary schools in an effort to stop the spread of STIs, RÚV reports. Recent research has shown that there are more cases of syphilis in Iceland proportionally than anywhere else in Europe. Chlamydia is also relatively common in Iceland compared to other countries in the region.

According to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Iceland has a rate of syphilis diagnosis of 15.4 of every 100,000 residents. Of all European countries, Iceland’s rate is proportionally the highest. If left untreated, the sexually transmitted infection can cause disorders of the heart, brain, and nervous system.

Syphylis, gonnorhoea rates rise

The number of syphilis diagnoses in Iceland has fluctuated significantly in recent years. While it dropped in 2011 and 2013, it showed a large increase in 2017 with 52 diagnoses. In 2018, 30 were diagnosed with the STI.

“Sex has become freer and people are not using condoms. That’s really the only explanation for this,” stated Þórólfur. “Other sexually transmitted diseases have increased in Iceland as well, such as gonorrhoea. And the frequency of chlamydia is high here, probably the highest in Europe.”

According to Þórólfur, chlamydia rates are highest in Iceland among those between 18-25. Syphilis, on the other hand, is more common among homosexual men, as is the case elsewhere abroad. “It is worth noting that the increase here [in syphilis diagnoses] has primarily been explained by the migration of people to Iceland, foreigners,” Þórólfur adds, “which has raised these numbers.”

Parents oppose condoms in primary schools

Þórólfur wants to see condoms distributed in primary schools as well as secondary schools to prevent the spread of STIs. “There are many who are opposed to that, many parents,” he says. “But we need to discuss this very well and we need to do everything we can to stop the spread of these diseases, which can be very serious. People can have chlamydia and have few symptoms or be asymptomatic. But the access here to diagnosis and treatment is very good. There has been much talk about bringing screening, research, and diagnosis out into society, to at-risk groups. There are debates about doing that, and that’s one part of trying to find as many people as possible in the early stages so they don’t infect others.”