Background UK rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) are sustained or rising, particularly among young people aged 16–24, despite decreases in patient waiting times within traditional services. Modern advances in communication and diagnostic technologies offers the potential of electronic self-testing and diagnosis for STIs (eSTI2), linked to Internet/mobile-App based clinical management and support, which could be accessed wherever people find convenient and safe. We aimed to explore opinions on using eSTI2 among a sample of potential users.
Methods Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of sexually active young people aged 16–24 years enrolled in London further education colleges. Analysis was based on the Framework method.
Results Participants were 64% male (n = 16), 36% female (n = 9). Mean age was 19. They described their ethnicity as Black 84% (n = 21), mixed race 12% (n = 3), Asian 4% (n = 1). Including those screened via the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP), the majority of participants (92%, n = 23) had previously screened for STIs at least once. The young people in our sample were highly conversant in mobile technology but had limited experience of using it to access health-related services. Participants reported struggling between desire to access services out of concern for their sexual health and repercussions from being discovered by family and peers at testing centres. These barriers were seen to be mitigated by using eSTI2. Participants expressed the importance of eSTI2 being embedded within NHS services, incorporating personal support from clinicians when necessary.
Conclusions Concern around long waits and lack of privacy within traditional settings created a barrier to STI testing for these young people. Electronic self-testing for STIs, linked to Internet/mobile-App based clinical management and support (eSTI2) and embedded within NHS services appears highly acceptable to this group of high-risk young people and could increase their access to STI testing and care.
- chlamydia screening
- mobile technology
- Young People