The huge majority of at-home sexually transmitted an infection testing kits in america look like restricted to make use of by adults, a brand new examine finds, and lots of have limitations that make them lower than perfect for younger folks to make use of.
Whereas at-home kits do enable extra entry to STI testing, “we have to create applications which might be particular for youth as a result of they’ve further wants,” mentioned lead writer Saumya Sao, a analysis assistant on the division of gynecology & obstetrics at Johns Hopkins College, Baltimore, in an interview. “The one platform that did meet our wants was this system that we developed particularly.”
The findings had been launched forward of the examine’s scheduled presentation on the 2022 annual medical and scientific assembly of the American Faculty of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ().
In response to Ms. Sao, firms started to supply extra at-home testing kits through the pandemic as in-person STI clinics shut down. Nonetheless, “the truth that we solely discovered 13 self-collect mail-in STI applications reveals you that that is fairly new,” she mentioned. “There aren’t too many firms that do it. We discovered much more platforms that enable customers to position orders for testing on-line, however you’re nonetheless required to enter a lab and really do the testing.”
The researchers gathered details about 13 applications, together with the one which they developed at Johns Hopkins often called Violet. Of these, seven restricted testing to adults aged 18 and up, and one didn’t record an age requirement. The remaining had some age necessities (comparable to 14 and up) or no age necessities.
The dearth of full entry for teenagers is problematic, Ms. Sao mentioned. In response to the examine, “entry to testing amongst younger folks is particularly necessary as a result of youth (ages 13-24) bear a disproportionate burden of sexually transmitted an infection, accounting for 50% of instances however solely 25% of the sexually energetic inhabitants.”
Analysis has steered that younger persons are typically cautious of visiting STI clinics as a result of they worry stigma from medical professionals or fear about being seen there, Ms. Sao mentioned.
Exams are free in solely three of the applications analyzed within the new examine. Among the many different applications, exams for Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae price $45-$179; solely two accepted insurance coverage. “These out-of-pocket prices are actually excessive in regard to what a youngster would possibly be capable of afford for testing, particularly in the event that they would wish to do repeat testing between companions, or 3 months after testing optimistic,” Ms. Sao mentioned.
Many of the applications will hyperlink customers to medical professionals in the event that they take a look at optimistic. This can be a key characteristic, Ms. Sao mentioned, with the intention to be sure younger folks have assist.
As for location, a lot of the applications – together with all those who supply free testing – are restricted to sure states. Deliberate Parenthood, for instance, solely presents at-home STI testing in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. This system costs sufferers on a sliding scale, accepts insurance coverage, and is out there for ages 14 and up. It connects customers who take a look at optimistic to physicians.
One other free program, TakeMeHome, is restricted to 16 states. It consists of an HIV panel for ages 17+ (though it doesn’t have vaginal swab testing). It recommends that sufferers who’re optimistic seek the advice of a health care provider.
The researchers additionally discovered that some, however not all, of the applications ship testing materials in discreet packaging. That is necessary to younger folks as a result of they might not need their mother and father to know that they’re getting examined.
A few of the testing applications analyzed don’t make it clear on their websites whether or not their packaging is discreet, Ms. Sao mentioned.
At Johns Hopkins, Ms. Sao has helped develop the, which is designed to satisfy the wants of younger folks and presents free STI testing to residents of Maryland of any age for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis. Mailing packages are discreet, and physicians attain out to those that take a look at optimistic. Charges are lined.
“We don’t have cash but to develop past Maryland, however we’re hopeful,” she mentioned.
In an interview, Loma Linda (Calif.) College Well being maternal-fetal medication specialist Sarah Smithson, DO, MS, praised the examine and mentioned she helps optimizing at-home testing for younger folks. It could be helpful for teens who first get examined in a clinic however then want follow-up testing or testing of their companions, she mentioned.
Dr. Smithson added that transportation is usually a problem for younger folks. At her being pregnant clinic in California’s Inland Empire, she mentioned, some sufferers dwell in distant areas and make digital physician visits due to the gap. STI testing is essential for pregnant girls, she mentioned, “and this might be a recreation changer for them.”