Sunderland youngsters offered chlamydia tests online

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YOUNG Wearsiders are taking advantage of online technology to be tested for a sexually-transmitted disease.

According to health chiefs, more than 30 people a week are being notified if they have chlamydia via text, phone or letter after accessing the free online tests.

Self-testing kits available online are becoming increasingly popular among young men in the 18-24 age bracket wanting to avoid visiting Sunderland’s Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic.

Since last April, 1,487 tests have been requested over the web by Wearsiders.

Of those tested, 74 were positive.

Lorraine Hughes, the children’s commissioning lead for NHS South of Tyne and Wear on behalf of Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, said anyone who tests positive can then later arrange for treatment.

She added: “The South of Tyne and Wear chlamydia programme runs its free web request service for chlamydia screening. All tests are free of charge to the public and are treated in strictest confidence.

“People are informed of their results via a text message, phone call or a letter.

“According to a recent service review, each chlamydia test costs £11.89 in Sunderland, but of course is free of charge to the public.

“For those who test positive, treatment can be arranged at a time and place most suitable for them.

“Postal tests via the online service remain popular amongst older young people and young men aged 19-24.

“Interviews with service users suggests they like the anonymity of accessing sexual health services through the web.”

Despite an increasing number of young men opting to be tested via online kits remains a small proportion of those being tested direct at city clinics and medical centres.

Most recent figures reveal 10,809 people attended Sunderland GUM clinic during 2011, of which 8,848 live in the city.

Condoms, chlamydia testing and sexual health advice are also on offer to teenagers in Sunderland through the C-Card scheme.

Fourteen to 24-year-olds can sign up for the card, which has been launched by health and council chiefs, giving young people information on contraception, drugs, alcohol and other issues.

The scheme aims to help reduce teenage pregnancies and substance misuse and make help and advice easily available across the city.

When young people register for a C-Card, they get a bar-coded key fob which they can use not only to access information, but also to get condoms and chlamydia testing kits from more than 50 places, including youth clubs and hospitals.