A Review of the Scope of Direct-to-Consumer Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing Services Offered on the Internet

Ellie Manca, Barbara Van Der Pol, Cara Exten, Casey N. Pinto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background The prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is at an all-time high. Direct-to-consumer STI testing services may help alleviate this undue health burden. These products are sold online and rarely require interaction with a health care professional (HCP). Vendors offer STI self-collection kits or prescriptions for HCP specimen collection. The objective was to understand the scope of direct-to-consumer STI testing services offered and provide recommendations for consumers and industry. Methods Seven volunteers searched for "STD tests"on Google from February 1 through March 31, 2021 and shared their top 3 results. The study team extracted data from consumer-facing information on each website. Descriptive statistics and thematic qualitative analyses were performed. Results Twenty vendors were identified. Most vendors (95%) used Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certified or College of American Pathologists (CAP) accredited laboratories. Analyses distinguished between STI self-collection kits (n = 9) using independent laboratories and HCP specimen collection (n = 10), which used commercial laboratories (n = 1 offered both). The STI self-collection kits were cheaper per test and bundle on average (eg, $79.00 vs. $106.50 for chlamydia/gonorrhea), and more closely aligned with clinical recommendations compared with the HCP specimen collection options. Websites often contained inaccurate or misleading information (n = 13), often promoting testing outside of the recommendations. Conclusions Direct-to-consumer STI testing services are part of an emerging market lacking regulation. Consumers should select vendors offering prescriptions for HCP specimen collection at CAP accredited and CLIA-certified laboratories. Vendors should provide a screening tool to assess individual patient risk prior to test purchase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-328
Number of pages6
JournalSexually transmitted diseases
Volume50
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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