Online tests target high rate of STIs

The Illawarra has the highest rate of sexually transmitted infections in NSW, but a new no-questions-asked screening service will encourage those most at risk to seek help.

That is the view of Dr Aidan Lawrence, of Wollongong Medical Centre, who hopes the SmartSex service will capture those in the community who wouldn't normally be tested for STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.

The worst-affected age group in the Illawarra is 15-24, with chlamydia the most common.

Chlamydia notifications in the Illawarra have risen by 20 per cent in the last four years.

The SmartSex service - which was launched in the Illawarra earlier this month - allows adults to order a pathology request online to check for STIs.

Users can take their request to a participating pathology collection centre and be notified of their results by SMS within two business days.

Dr Lawrence said the discreet service would be good for those who were reluctant, or embarrassed, to talk to a GP about their sexual health.

"We know that on a global basis STIs account for the commonest infections in the world. We also know that in the last year alone the WHO [World Health Organisation] reported what they said was 350 million new cases of STIs in the world, so these things are extremely common and clearly on the rise," he said.

"The Illawarra figures mirror this as they have risen quite substantially in the last few years.

"So, the more we make available access by multiple ports - go see a doctor, go to a sexual health clinic, take yourself to a hospital or via online so people can do it quietly and privately - the greater the likelihood to be able to identify these people and be able to do something about it."

Dr Lawrence said up to 20 doctors at Wollongong Medical Centre did somewhere between 150 and 200 STI checks a week.

"Our yield, that is the number of people who turn up with a positive test, percentage wise is relatively quite small. So the implication is the people who are motivated to come in are not the people who are at most at risk. We are then missing that large chunk of community out there who potentially have these things."

Dr Lawrence said access was crucial in this day and age, considering that just about all STIs, including HIV, could be readily and cheaply treated.

"Any service which encourages people to get tested is a good thing. So if the SmartSex service does this, it is doing everyone a great deal of service," he said.

Residents can access the service by visiting and entering their postcode. 



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