Background Increasing access to sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing among young, heterosexual men is advocated as a means of reducing STI rates in the UK. New mobile, social media platforms, such as ‘smart-phones’, give unprecedented mobile access to the Internet, and the proliferation of Internet forums and social networking sites offer potential mediums for sexual health promotion. Here, we assess the acceptability and potential barriers and facilitators of these for STI testing among young men in Scotland.
Methods Qualitative study including 15 focus group discussions with 60 heterosexual young men (aged 16–24 years) across central Scotland to explore an online approach to proactive screening for Chlamydia trachomatis. Transcripts from audio recordings were analysed with Framework Analysis.
Results Participants were favourable of an online approach for accessing postal Chlamydia tests, even if they felt it was not suitable for them. However, some spoke more favourably of attending specialist sexual health clinics for testing, particularly those from areas of higher deprivation, of younger age, and who had previously attended such clinics. We found differing levels of exposure to and practises of (particularly mobile) Internet use by deprivation and age. Despite reporting Internet access, younger men (aged 16–19 years) largely used mobile/cell phones to place and receive calls and to send SMS text messages and they reported fears over the costs, risks of ‘smart-phones’ being stolen or broken, and a general disinterest due to a perceived lack of fit with their identities. Conversely, Facebook use was universal.
Conclusion Increasing mobile access to the Internet provides opportunities for re-evaluating how we deliver sexual health promotion and engage young men in STI testing and screening. However, our study suggests that such an approach could potentially widen inequalities by age and socio-economic background and future interventions using such technology should consider how best to counter this.
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