HSE launched its pilot home testing program for sexually transmitted infections in January 2021 and now, a year after, almost 50,000 kits have been sought by users. What’s even more positive news is that it is estimated that 57% of those who required the kits had never used STIs testing services before, showing that the programme is reaching just the right people.
With the online testing service, users receive a kit directly to their home address. All they have to do then is complete the samples and return them by free post to the lab. Their results will then be delivered by phone or text message within 72 hours.
This easy-to-follow procedure helps in lowering barriers that people might encounter when facing sexual health services like taking time off work to get to a clinic, worries about discretion, as well as anxiety while waiting for the results.
This has surely proven to be a successful strategy, as 57% of those who requested the online service had never been tested before. Moreover, 8% of them received reactive results that prompted them to require further care.
— SH:24 (@sh24_nhs) December 19, 2021
The National Clinical Lead for Sexual Health Services, professor Fiona Lyons, commented on the service saying “Some people for reasons of stigma, confidentiality, or embarrassment may wish to have their care done in this way. Also for people who are health literate, have low complexity needs and by and large no symptoms, but recognise that they need to have a check-up, this is a very efficient way to access care without having to go to face to face service”.
People who have required the service seem to agree with this. A female user, who had never accessed this type of sexual health services before, said “I had heard really bad things about getting appointments at the clinics, having to get there, and it’s like a whole day kind of a thing. But I saw the home testing kits advertised and I said I’d just do it”.
She was not the only one to find the service beneficial in this sense. “When these kits became available my friend and I got one each, and it’s his very first time getting any sort of test. That’s not a reflection on him, but just shows you have to go out of your way and usually out of pocket to check something that’s pretty important,” another male user explained.
Syphilis is on the rise in Ireland. Learn about syphilis symptoms, testing and prevention by visiting https://t.co/LjV4NrfNsL.@_respectprotect #sexualwellbeing #syphilisprevention #syphilis #STIs #syphilistesting pic.twitter.com/DTci5MxsxF
— Sexual Health Centre (@SHC_Cork) August 5, 2021
Some users have noticed how easy it is to use the self-administered test, making the entire process very straightforward. “It was only when I received the packet and they had the various different leaflets there, giving me information, taking me through what each tested and what was required and how to do it, I couldn’t believe how straightforward it was. They give you tips to get your blood flowing beforehand and they give you like four or five-finger pricks, but I only needed one.” one of them said.
The online testing service has proven particularly useful during the pandemic when people had difficulties in accessing the clinics to get tested. Initially, the test was only available to people living in Cork, Kerry and Dublin. SH:24, the company in charge of providing the tests, was then offered a brand new contract by the HSE in October 2021, when a national outbreak of syphilis was declared in Ireland. Now the programme has been expanded to include 20 counties.
You can order the home testing kits through the online SH:24 platform.
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