Preparing for PrEP

Shifting the sexual health conversation with emojis and humour.


Discussing sex and sexual health has always been a subject fraught with hurdles, which mainly stem from taboos that we impose upon ourselves. The effects of these taboos are expansive ranging from causing body insecurities leading to individuals having a warped perception of what is “normal”, through to massive misconceptions in society resulting in discrimination as is still seen around HIV.

It’s clear, therefore, that new approaches are required to facilitate conversations and allow individuals to connect on a personal level their own sexual health and wellbeing. This is what we’re working on at Troglo with the four essential requirements being to; engage the individual, be non-judgemental, provide an informative experience, and establish trust.

What is Troglo?

Troglo is a mobile platform that improves sexual health and wellbeing along with reducing STI and HIV infections. We’re working with our users to improve behaviours by facilitating decision making, increasing access to resources and reducing their need for treatment.

A sample screenshot
                    from the Troglo app illustrating one's logged activity

The Current Conversation:

    There are a few examples that tend to stick in peoples minds when broaching the subject of sexual health, the two most poignant being:

  • Sex Education videos and lessons in school
  • The scope of which is limited to the bare mechanics of heterosexual sex, and the act of putting a condom on a banana, which is far from comprehensive, to say the least.

    (Though to be fair some schools are now taking this far more seriously and opening up the conversation for students with differing needs and questions, but this is far from universal)

  • The infamous tombstone 1980s advert
  • When talking to individuals about sexual health the tombstone advert is one of the most commonly cited examples, even for those born after the advert was aired. It most likely has had the longest term effect of any sexual health campaign in British history, with the impacts being nearly universally detrimental.

    The campaign came at the peak of the HIV epidemic and was intended to mitigate the spread of the virus. Importantly it did not directly cast judgment on any specific group of people and contains informative content, but its the aftermath and the dramatisation of the messaging that’s had a lasting effect.


To this day, numerous misconceptions are still riff surrounding HIV and Aids. In a survey recently conducted by the Terrance Higgins Trust, 61% of respondents said they would or might break up with a partner if they found out they were HIV positive, and fewer than 20% of respondents knew that a partner who has an undetectable HIV viral load is unable to pass on the infection.

Chaning the Tone:

An image
                              displaying how emojis are used to convey a sexual
                              act. One set shows 'Topping' with a larger
                              aubergine emoji and smaller peach emoji, with the
                              aubergine annotated with 'you' and the peach
                              emoji annotated with 'them'

The way in which sexual health is discussed is evidently something that needs to be reassessed, given these core examples. At Troglo we’ve done this by taking a step back and looking at the key intentions behind the conversation:

  • Engaging for each individual
  • Being non-judgemental irrespective of circumstances
  • Providing an informative experience in a manner that is relevant
  • Building trust so that the content has value

There are a few key ways in which we have achieved this, for example, the language we have chosen in some cases we have opted for colloquial terms and humour, and in others, we have used formalities. In parallel, we have used emojis, ordinarily used for sexual innuendo, to provide a non-taboo means for communicating sexual activities which aid in fostering user honesty when logging information and as a result makes it easier to identify potential issues or relevant resources.

A combination of these along with well-sourced information has come together to create the Troglo voice. Which in turn we are using to move the sexual health conversation forward.