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Online Syphilis Testing Shows Promise

February 24, 2005

Internet-based syphilis testing is a convenient alternative to standard STD clinic testing and could lead to increased screening rates, according to new study.

To stymie the syphilis epidemic among men who have sex with men, the San Francisco Department of Public Health worked with an information services group to develop, a Web site that allows people to print out a laboratory requisition slip for syphilis testing, locate one of several locations where they can have their blood drawn, and then receive their results anonymously online. The Web site was launched in 2003.

During the site's first year of operation, 218 tests were performed, said SFDPH's Kate Scott and colleagues. Of those tested, 13 had positive screening tests and six new infections were diagnosed and treated.

"In the absence of, one might assume that these men may have sought testing through traditional sources," the researchers reported. "However, conversations with these men indicated that they would have delayed testing as a result of the long wait times and limited hours of the STD clinic."

Though start-up costs for the online service were around $20,000, maintenance costs were "much lower than other syphilis screening programs of men who have sex with men," noted the researchers. The study, "Online Syphilis Testing -- Confidential and Convenient," was published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases (2005;32(2):139-141).

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Excerpted from:
Reuters Health

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