Free STI home testing kits will help tackle “stigma and embarrassment”, the HSE’s Clinical Lead for Sexual Health has said.
Last year, the health service piloted sending the tests for free to people’s homes in a number of counties and found there was a significant uptake in the number of people getting checked.
The scheme is now being rolled out across the country and Dr Fiona Lyons expects a similar increase in testing nationwide:
“This is all about handing people the responsibility and empowering people,” she enthused to Newstalk Breakfast.
“This is all about giving them the responsibility and empowering them to look after their own sexual health.
“We have a challenge in Ireland with capacity and access to STI testing, so this is one of the solutions to that.
“And in the pilot that ran in January and May of 2021 we had an estimated increase in capacity in the participating counties of 33%.”
In clinic testing will still be available but Dr Lyons says it is important that people have the option of testing at home as well:
“It isn’t for everybody,” she continued.
“And it’s largely targeting individuals who are asymptomatic and that does a number of things.
“It allows people to be in greater control of their sexual health and meeting their sexual health needs.
“It also overcomes many of the long-standing barriers of stigma and embarrassment of having to give a sexual history or having to talk to somebody about their sex lives.
“And we know from the pilot that 57% of the people who engage with the pilot service had never engaged with the sexual health service - so that is very good indeed.”
Anyone looking to order a test kit can do so from sexualwellbeing.ie and will receive their results either by phone call or text:
“In the pilot phase, over 97% of users got their results within 72 hours of the sample getting to the laboratory which is really, really good and that was one of our key targets in the pilot.”
Main image: Fiona Lyons, Clinical Lead for Sexual Health, at the launch of the HSE free national home STI testing service. Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland