Background Access to information is a key challenge in sexual health, with poor knowledge associated with poor outcomes. Internet interventions have been shown to improve sexual health knowledge, highlighting the potential of the web as a source of information.
Aims To assess sexual health service users' use of the Internet to obtain sexual health information, and to use the data to inform the design of a local sexual health website.
Methods 243 participants were recruited from a busy walk-in sexual health clinic in July and September 2011. A structured questionnaire assessed their use and rating of the Internet for various aspects of sexual health information (STIs, contraception, clinic information, homosexuality, virginity and body worries) and gauged opinion on the content of a local sexual health website.
Results 62% of participants were female. 44% identified as black African, black Caribbean or black British and 42% were white. 44% were aged under 25. 67% of respondents use the internet for sexual health information. It was the most popular resource for information on STIs, clinic information and homosexuality (compared to doctor/nurse, friends, family, school, TV and magazines). The next most popular choices were doctor/nurse and friends. 67% stated they would use a local sexual health website with STIs, clinic information and contraception being the topics they would most like information on. “Detailed” and “Basic” information were highlighted as important aspects of website content. Only 19% selected “original design” as being important.
Conclusions The internet is a popular source for sexual health information. For STIs it was selected over doctors/nurses indicating the need for good online information. Both basic and detailed information were requested highlighting the importance of a range of educational resources. Originality was not as important as having a site they could trust. These findings will inform the development and content of a local website.