The Johns Hopkins team describes the success of the program started in Baltimore in 2004 that lets men and women in their 20s or teens order home-testing kits for the most common STIs over the Internet.
The Johns Hopkins group designed the website to track new and recurrent infections by providing private, confidential testing for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Trichomonas vaginalis. The project also facilitates treatment for those who test positive.
"Our results are repeatedly showing us that we have to go online if we want young people to be screened for sexually transmitted infections, especially young people in harder-to-reach, urban-poor minority groups," says infectious disease specialist Doctor Charlotte Gaydos, senior study investigator. She says the website now routinely gets 100,000 monthly hits.
As of Jan. 1, some 3,500 young people, half under the age of 23, and many from low-income households, have gotten their test kit for free via the website, some more than once. Initially, kits were also offered at local pharmacies and in public health clinics, but nine of 10 who used the kit ordered it online. "The Internet is by far the most popular means of getting tested among this sexually active group, and at a time when they are most at risk of becoming infected."
Each home test kit comes with instructions, a unique identification number, and a prepaid return envelope to return self-collected vaginal, penile or rectal swabs in specially sealed test tubes to Gaydos' lab at Johns Hopkins. The kits are mailed in plain, brown paper envelopes and contain a detailed questionnaire that allows researchers to gather information about who used the kit and why. Within two weeks of sending the test to the lab, people can call a toll-free number, provide their identification number and a secret password chosen when they ordered, and get their test results.
So far, 444 women and girls, some as young as 15, and 192 men and boys, for whom screening started in 2006, have tested positive for one or more bacterial or protozoon infections. All but four women and one man who tested positive sought subsequent treatment. For those who test positive, referrals are offered to nearby public health clinics.
"Using the Web is a very safe, private, secure and practical forum for young people to deal with sexually transmitted infections," says Gaydos.
MEDICA.de; Source: John Hopkins Medicine