Researchers with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) published three studies evaluating users’ experiences of the free and confidential online testing program, GetCheckedOnline (http://getcheckedonline.com), during the first few years of its operation. Users reported that online sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing removes some of the barriers that prevent people from getting tested while providing key information about health and wellness.
GetCheckedOnline tests for STIs and blood-borne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C. It is the first online sexual health service in BC and is available to people living in Metro Vancouver and, in partnership with Island Health and Interior Health Authorities, some parts of Vancouver Island and the Interior. More than 12 000 tests have been completed since it launched in 2014, and 43% of people have used it for testing more than once.
While online health care is expected to be more convenient for users, there are concerns that it won’t deliver the same opportunities to educate patients about their health and well-being, and preventive measures. One of the studies compared clients’ knowledge of HIV testing and prevention among clinic visitors and GetCheckedOnline users. The researchers found that GetCheckedOnline users had equal knowledge of HIV as people who had gone to clinics for testing, even 3 months after testing.
Along with online services, processes that connect clients with doctors when needed are still required. Some users also noted face-to-face visits provide opportunities to discuss other health matters and can lead to referrals for further care. Previous research from the BCCDC shows there is a growing interest in integrating mental and sexual health services.
The three studies were recently published in Sexually Transmitted Infections:
- “Qualitative analysis of the experiences of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who use GetCheckedOnline.com: A comprehensive internet-based diagnostic service for HIV and other STIs” (https://sti.bmj.com/content/early/2019/01/12/sextrans-2018-053645)
- “Differences in experiences of barriers to STI testing between clients of the internet-based diagnostic testing service GetCheckedOnline.com and an STI clinic in Vancouver, Canada” (https://sti.bmj.com/content/early/2018/02/15/sextrans-2017-053325)
- “Post-test comparison of HIV test knowledge and changes in sexual risk behaviour between clients accessing HIV testing online versus in-clinic” (https://sti.bmj.com/content/early/2019/01/12/sextrans-2018-053652.long)
For more information, visit http://getcheckedonline.com.
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