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New express testing service helping increase access to STI screening

A new program out of BCCDC’s STI clinic aims to address a decrease in STI testing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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​Access to sexual health services has been significantly limited throughout the pandemic. With clinic closures, staff deployments to rapid response teams, and reduced in-person health care visits, there has been a drop in routine Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) testing across British Columbia.

This decrease does not mean people stopped getting STIs. Data collected from Get Checked Online, an online STI testing service offered by BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), shows the proportion of routine screens with a positive result has increased. 

“Reduced testing and diagnoses may be one of the reasons there were fewer STIs reported, particularly early in the pandemic," said Karmen Olson, public health manager, BCCDC STI/HIV services. “This indicates an urgent need for increased availability of routine STI testing.”

The new STI Express Testing service at BCCDC is part of an effort to resume such routine testing services and help identify undetected cases.


Low-barrier STI testing

A routine STI test means getting tested even if you do not have any symptoms. Some STIs can go undetected because of the absence of any obvious symptoms.

Getting a routine test can identify those STIs and help the client receive appropriate treatment to prevent any serious health issues. STI Express Testing service is a faster way to get a routine STI test. 

“An Express Testing appointment takes about 15 minutes, depending on the type of specimen being collected,” said Stanley Hou, medical laboratory assistant, STI Express Testing service. Results are generally available in a week after testing.

Clients can choose to receive this service anonymously using a pseudonym. It is also available to those who do not have a medical services plan (MSP). 

“Shorter appointment times and low-barrier access to STI testing has made this service a good option for those who may otherwise not have access to routine testing,” said Lindsay Barton, clinical nurse educator, BCCDC STI/HIV Clinic. 

The need for this service is apparent from the quick uptake. In its first month of operation since launching on September 28, the clinic booked 272 express testing appointments.

“This accounted for about 22 percent of total appointments booked at the BCCDC STI/HIV clinic,” said Natalie Holgerson, nursing supervisor, STI/HIV Clinic. 

Providing client-centered care

“I have helped everyone from young people to seniors, to people from minority groups and the LGBTQ community,” said Hou. “Not all groups have the same needs and expectations. I tailor my questions based on the client and which community or demographics they come from to make them feel comfortable.”stanley.jpg

Clients have an option to share their experience at the STI Express Testing appointment through a survey. Survey results from the early weeks of this service point to the importance of providing such non-judgmental, trauma-informed, and culturally-aware care. 

“100 percent of clients surveyed between September 28 to October 31 reported they felt safe and comfortable using express testing for STI screening,” said Barton.

STI Express Testing is available to asymptomatic clients. Those who have symptoms or have had sexual contact with someone who tested positive for an STI should book a regular appointment with a nurse. 

For all STI/HIV Clinic appointments, please call 604-707-5600.




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