Vancouver – The BC Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) expanded online testing program for sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) is helping more people than ever before, including those who haven’t previously been tested, and who engage in sexual activities that have a higher chance of infection.
GetCheckedOnline, the first program of its kind in Canada, is an internet-based service that allows people to get tested for STBBI and get their results online – without visiting a doctor. It launched in Vancouver in 2014 and expanded to Victoria, Langford, Duncan, Kamloops and Nelson in March 2016.
A new evaluation, which was conducted in the 18-month period after the program’s expansion, found the following:
- 3,850 people were tested through GetCheckedOnline during the 18-month period
- One in 20 people were diagnosed with an STI or HIV
- GetCheckedOnline is reaching people who have a higher chance of infection and who need to get tested:
- Provincially, 42 per cent of clients reported having sex without a condom
- 28 per cent of clients reported having four or more sexual partners
- 15 per cent of clients reported an STI diagnosis in the past year
- One-third of people under the age of 30 who used GetCheckedOnline said it was their first time testing for STI/HIV
Research studies conducted by the BCCDC have shown that users of GetCheckedOnline are more likely to have experienced challenges with accessing traditional testing services, such as long wait times, difficulty getting to the clinic, stigma, or fear of judgement by health care providers. In a survey, 96 per cent of GetCheckedOnline users were satisfied with their testing experience, and 98 per cent said they would use the service again.
“GetCheckedOnline helps people take control of their sexual health,” said Dr. Mark Gilbert, GetCheckedOnline’s medical lead with the BCCDC. “There are a number of reasons why people don’t test – it could be clinic hours or wait times, stigma, or embarrassment talking about sex with their doctor. GetCheckedOnline helps break down those barriers and makes it easier for people to test.”
All GetCheckedOnline testing in British Columbia is performed by the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory, part of Lower Mainland Laboratories under the Provincial Health Services Authority.
“GetCheckedOnline provides a novel way to reach patients who might not go for testing otherwise,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, medical director for the Public Health Laboratory. “We are pleased to see that, with easier access, more of the community is getting the testing they need.”
Discussions about further expanding GetCheckedOnline in BC are underway. Dr. Gilbert and his team were recently awarded a $2-million grant from Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The five-year grant will be used to evaluate the continued scale-up of GetCheckedOnline in BC, how its usability could be improved, including translation into multiple languages, and how it could be implemented in Toronto. The team includes researchers, public health staff, clinicians and community organizations from across BC and Ontario.
- GetCheckedOnline is the first online service in Canada that offers confidential testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C
- The program was developed by the BCCDC in partnership with the BC Public Health Laboratory, and now works in collaboration with regional health authorities and LifeLabs
- 6,110 people tested through GetCheckedOnline between September 2014 and January 2018.
- Clients visit the website, create an account, answer a sexual history questionnaire and generate a laboratory form. They then go to a participating LifeLabs location in their community to give specimens, and are notified by email when their results are ready. If all results are negative, they can be viewed online. Clients with positive or inconclusive results will be contacted by a BCCDC nurse to arrange follow-up and appropriate treatment
- GetCheckedOnline is an extension of the BCCDC’s clinical services arm for sexually transmitted infections and has undergone rigorous reviews to safeguard privacy, security and confidentiality
The BC Centre for Disease Control
, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides public health leadership through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The centre provides diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance, and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities. The BCCDC also provides health promotion and prevention services to reduce the burden of chronic disease and preventable injury. For more, visit www.bccdc.ca
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The Provincial Health Services Authority
(PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca
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