New online approach to screening for sexually transmitted infections
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New online approach to screening for sexually transmitted infections

People can now go online to discreetly request testing for sexually transmitted infections, under a new program being piloted in the ACT.

The SmartSex initiative enables people to go online and buy a pathology request to be screened for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. They then visit a collection centre to provide samples for testing and results are sent to them by text message within two business days.

Associate Professor David Wilson from the University of New South Wales' Kirby Institute said STIs in Australia were on the rise and it was hoped initiatives like SmartSex would encourage more people to get tested.

"It's not going to be for everybody but it will be important for some people. STIs are very common in Australia and there are some people who do not like to have that awkward conversation with their GP about having a test," he said.

"This is more convenient and it bypasses that awkward conversation."

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Associate professor Wilson said if people had positive test results, they would then be required to see a doctor.

Figures from ACT Health indicate serious sexually transmitted diseases have risen in recent years, with diagnoses of HIV and gonorrhoea more than doubling in the past five years.

New diagnoses of HIV in the ACT have risen from 11 in 2009-10 to 26 this financial year. Chlamydia continues to be the most commonly diagnosed STI, with data revealing cases rose from 1048 in 2009-10 to 1220 this year. There have been 134 cases of gonorrhoea this year, up from 52 in 2009-10.

The SmartSex initiative is being piloted in the ACT and NSW. People can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C. Prices for screening range from $95 up to $129 for a routine screening and the service is being offered at Capital Pathology in Barton.

GP and Independent Practitioner Network chief medical officer Dr Ged Foley said the initiative targeted people who may not have a regular GP or those who might not feel comfortable talking to their family doctor about STI testing.

ACT Health also offers a range of information about STIs and testing on its website.

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