Staying Healthy – Runner Up
Get Checked Online
BC Centre for Disease Control
GetCheckedOnline.com is an online sexual health care initiative that allows patients to bypass stigma and other barriers that they might otherwise encounter when getting tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
Developed by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), GetCheckedOnline.com is a virtual extension of the organization’s sexually transmitted infections (STI) clinic. It has facilitated over 1,700 tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis C since launching as a pilot project in September 2014. It is the first publicly-funded program in North America that provides online access to comprehensive STI and HIV testing.
Despite the availability of STI and HIV testing throughout BC, many people are not getting tested as frequently as they should. Barriers include concerns about privacy and confidentiality, fear of judgement when disclosing sexual practices, discomfort around talking to a health care provider, long wait times at clinics, and inability to access a testing site during business hours. Rising rates of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis in BC, and steady rates of HIV diagnoses in populations such as gay and bisexual men all speak to the importance of accessible, low-barrier STI and HIV testing.
Through GetCheckedOnline.com, a patient can create an account (providing minimal identifiers) and complete a sexual risk assessment. Based on their responses, the site provides recommended tests, educational messages, prompts to visit a clinic, and email testing reminders. Next, the patient prints a lab requisition and visits a participating LifeLabs location to give blood, urine and/or swab specimens. The patient is then notified by email when results are ready. Negative results can be retrieved online, and all positive results are given over the phone by STI nurses who arrange for treatment, discuss notifying sex partners, and ensure that supports are provided as needed. The entire process is free and does not require a BC Care Card or any other identification.
The BCCDC has many partners in this initiative, including the BC Public Health Lab, Island Health, Interior Health and LifeLabs. Funding is provided by the Provincial Health Services Authority, Island Health and Interior Health. Research activities are funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and conducted in partnership with the University of British Columbia.
In its first two years of operation, the program has seen steadily increasing numbers of patients creating accounts, testing, and repeating testing. Over 2,800 accounts have been created and more than 1,700 people have completed testing, with over 450 people testing more than once. Eighty-eight infections have been diagnosed to-date (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), yielding a positivity rate of 5%, which is comparable to the Provincial STI Clinic. Over 570 individuals who were not able to get tested immediately at a clinic have accessed testing through GetCheckOnline.com, leading to the detection of infections that may have otherwise gone undiagnosed.
Data clearly show that GetCheckedOnline.com is reaching its intended audience of people facing barriers to testing and at higher risk of infection:
- 43% of users identified as gay or bisexual
- 38% were under the age of 30
- 15% were experiencing STI-related symptoms
- 9% had never before tested for STI or HIV
- 15% had been diagnosed with an STI in the previous 12 months
Preliminary feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive, and the BCCDC is currently conducting a systematic evaluation of the program. In addition to further scaling up GetCheckedOnline.com, the BCCDC and partner agencies involved with the program are interested in promoting the program to Aboriginal youth and young men who have sex with men.
At a Glance
John Barsby Wellness Centre
John Barsby Community School