Pharmacy-based STI testing

Eight out of every ten consumers say they’d be willing to obtain pharmacy-based chlamydia testing, according to a survey conducted in Australia and Switzerland.

The research, published in the Journal of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, shows 79.3% of Australian consumers would be willing to seek testing from a pharmacy, while in Switzerland that figure was 83.3%.

Researcher Sajni Gudka, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Western Australia, said the survey results back up similar studies she’s conducted over the last decade.

‘Every time we survey young people aged 16 to 30 the result is always that between 70% to 80% of them would be willing to go and ask the pharmacist for a chlamydia test,’ she said.

Asst Prof Gudka said the main reason consumers would be willing to seek a testing kit from a pharmacy is the convenience it offers compared to booking a general practitioner appointment.

‘If they could get that pathology form from the pharmacy, and then go to the pathology lab and do the test, it would save them 1 to 2 hours of their time, plus out-of-pocket costs,’ she said.

On the cons side of the ledger, 32% of Australian consumers were worried about a lack of privacy in the pharmacy.

Meanwhile, 49% of survey participants said they’d be embarrassed about asking for a chlamydia test, however Asst Prof Gudka said the stigma would likely reduce over time.

‘We find that if something is available from a pharmacy, people believe that it can’t be that bad. We’ve seen that over the last 15 years with emergency contraception,’ she said.

Asst Prof Gudka said chlamydia was an ideal candidate for pharmacy-based testing, as opposed to gonorrhoea and other sexually transmitted diseases, because it was often asymptomatic and didn’t require a blood test or internal examinations.

‘If you don’t have symptoms you might not go to the doctor because it’s a hassle. But if someone is going to the pharmacy for other sexual health needs, such as emergency contraception or condoms, they may think, “Oh yeah, I probably should get this test done too”,’ Asst Prof Gudka said.

She said for pharmacists, of which 95.7% said they’d be willing to provide pharmacy-based chlamydia testing, this would be taking the next step in sexual health management

‘They already provide a lot of care around sexual health but they do it passively. This will be a more active approach,’ Asst Prof Gudka said.