Internet-Based Screening for Sexually Transmitted Infections to Reach Nonclinic Populations in the Community: Risk Factors for Infection in Men


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Abstract

Background:Internet-based screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been acceptable to women, and can reach high-risk populations. No prior published data describe internet-based screening for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis in men. We studied whether internet-based screening was acceptable and reached a high-risk population, and what risk factors were associated with STI positivity.Methods:The website, www.iwantthekit.org, encouraged men ≥14 years of age to request a home self-sampling kit and a questionnaire on risk factors and acceptability of internet-based screening. Penile swabs and urine samples were tested for C. trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae, and T. vaginalis using a nucleic acid amplification test. Risk factors and acceptability were examined using chi squared tests and logistic regression.Results:Of 501 samples received for testing, 106 (21%) were positive for at least one STI, 64 (13%) for chlamydia, 4 (1%) for gonorrhea, and 49 (10%) for trichomonas. In multivariable analyses, age, race, household income, and frequency of condom use were independently associated with infection with at least one STI. Of the total respondents, 34% had a prior STI; 29% reported having a partner with an STI, but only 13% reported always using a condom. Among the men who participated in this study, 77% preferred a self-administered specimen versus attending a clinic, 89% reported that swab use was easy, and 89% reported that they would use internet-based screening again.Conclusions:Men who accessed internet-based screening had known risk factors for STIs and had a high prevalence of infection. Internet-based screening was acceptable and could reach these high-risk men who might not otherwise be reached through traditional means.

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