Teenagers are being sent sex advice by text message under a controversial NHS scheme in a bid to cut pregnancy rates.
They can send in questions about losing their virginity, where to get the morning-after pill and how to get tested for infections.
Within minutes they receive a detailed reply on their mobile phones from a trained advisor, paid for by councils and local health trusts.
The scheme is targeted towards those aged 13 to 25 to increase awareness about issues such as contraception and teenage pregnancy.
Those who text in are not asked their age.
The service is funded by health trusts and councils and is being run in the London boroughs of Enfield, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Youngsters are not charged and they can send texts any day of the week, between the hours of 8am and 2am. They receive a response from one of 100 health advisors who work in shifts from a call centre in London.
The scheme was introduced last year amid concerns that teenagers were having sex without being fully aware of the consequences.
Around 40,000 teenage girls become pregnant in Britain every year, making it the highest rate in Western Europe. Sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia and gonorrhea have reached a 30-year high, with 500,000 cases every year.
But some oppose the scheme and warn that the text service – funded by taxpayers – is simply encouraging promiscuity among under-age youngsters.
Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, said: 'Not only does it undermine parents by presenting itself as an authoritative source of advice on sex, relationships and sexual health, but it also fails to respect the age of consent by offering a service to children under 16.
Around 500 texts are sent to the service, called txtm8, every month and the number is advertised on council websites and social networking sites.
Andrew Fraser, the co-director for education and children's services at Enfield Council, which is using the text service said: 'This is a user-friendly service, providing young people with advice via the medium they value most – their mobile phones.'
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