There has been a surge in online testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with nearly 1,000 people turning to the internet for diagnosis last year.
The data was released by Lloyds Online Doctor — Ireland’s first online testing service which enables patients to accurately test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and HIV at home.
After a short questionnaire, individuals conduct the test themselves and post their sample to a laboratory for assessment. They are notified of the results via a confidential online record.
Backed by the Irish Family Planning Association, the service reported 961 patients in the last 12 months, with more women (57%) than men (43%) availing of the confidential service.
Overall, 60 people tested positive for an STI — 57 for chlamydia, two for gonorrhoea, and one for HIV.
Almost half of all tests were taken by individuals in their 20s, closely followed by those in their 30s. The oldest person to use the service was aged 61.
The month with the highest number of STI tests was March, while November saw the highest number of positive results.
Most individuals tested were from Dublin (43%), followed by Cork (13%), and Limerick and Galway (4% each).
Lloyds Online Doctor general manager Stephen Bourke said the technology had enabled them to provide patients with an affordable, discreet, and convenient way to get tested for STIs.
“Many of the people who use our tests can’t or won’t go to a clinic to be tested and so this service complements the more comprehensive testing carried out by the IFPA,” he said.
“The estimated direct medical cost of treating chlamydia is more than €1,000, whilst annual costs for treating HIV patients are almost €7,000 per annum. Earlier diagnosis means more effective treatment and significant savings for the taxpayer.”
Mr Bourke also called on the Government to implement a national sexual health programme, complete with national screening.
The chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association, Niall Behan, said the service provides another option for anyone concerned they may have contracted an STI.
“Sexual health and well-being is an important part of people’s lives at all ages, and this additional service gives people across the country an accessible option,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved