Background Accurate serological tests for the herpes simplex virus have been commercially available since 1999. Despite this availability, they are offered infrequently. Concerns about the resources required for testing including time spent on counselling and follow-up are among the barriers to testing. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of using letters and phone calls to give HSV-1 and HSV-2 serological test results and to document the resources used to deliver results and respond to subjects' concerns.
Methods Subjects were recruited from an urban STD clinic and tested for HSV-1 and HSV-2 as part of a multi-site study of HSV serological test performance (N=612). Subjects were offered the option of having an investigator mail or call with test results. Result letters included a one page hand-out on HSV-1 and HSV-2 and the phone number of an investigator who could address concerns. Number of phone calls received, time spent on the phone, level of subject distress, and request for referrals were documented. Descriptive statistics were calculated for all variables and data was examined for bivariate relationships using SPSS.
Results Sixty-seven per cent of the subjects requested that their results be mailed (n=410) and 33% requested that their results be given by phone (n=202). Approximately 6% of the subjects who received letters called for additional information. Seventy-one per cent of the calls took less than 5 min and only 2% required more than 10 min. A total of approximately 6.4 h were spent on the phone to give results and respond to questions. <1% of the subjects required multiple phone calls and less than 1% requested a referral to a clinician. Investigators rated 55% of subjects spoken to on the phone as not at all distressed, 31% as somewhat distressed, and 12% as very distressed. Distress was significantly associated with longer time on the phone, but not with testing positive for HSV-2 vs HSV-1.
Conclusions Delivery of HSV serological test results by phone or mail is feasible and requires minimum time on the part of providers.
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