Online syphilis testing is a convenient alternative to standard testing in a clinic, and the Internet approach could potentially increase screening rates, according to a report in the medical journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
To combat the growing epidemic of syphilis among men who have sex with men, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), along with an information services group, developed STDTest.org, a Web site that allows people to print out a laboratory requisition slip for syphilis testing, have their blood drawn at one of several locations, and then receive their result anonymously online. During the site’s first year of operation in 2003, a total of 218 tests were performed, Kate Scott, from the SFDPH, and colleagues note. Thirteen subjects had positive screening tests and six new syphilis infections were diagnosed and treated. “In the absence of STDTest.org, one might assume that these men may have sought testing through traditional sources. However, conversations with these men indicated that they would have delayed testing as a result of the long wait times and limited hours of the STD clinic,” the team says. While initial start-up costs were around $20,000 for this online service, the authors note that maintenance costs were “much lower than other syphilis screening programs of men who have sex with men.” (Source: Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Reuters Health, February 2005.)