Ten thousand home STI test kits ordered every month

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There are 10,000 free home sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing kits  being ordered every month from the HSE.

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton said new figures showed that the service received more than 100,000 orders up to the end of November 2023, while more than 91,000 kits were ordered in 2022. 

The service provides individuals aged 17 and older with the option to test for STIs discreetly at home. Those with a reactive result, indicating a need for additional investigation or treatment, are referred to participating public STI clinics. 

Since November, individuals who test positive for chlamydia now have the option of an online prescription, reducing the number of referrals to clinics for treatment. The Department of Health said availability of the national home STI testing service had increased access to testing, removing potential barriers such as embarrassment, cost and time needed to travel to and attend a face-to-face service. During 2023, a total of  5,594 users rated the service with an overall user rating of 4.88 out 5.  

“The service is reaching key population groups and individuals who may not attend a face-to-face service. Of those ordering a home STI test kit in 2022, 56% reported having never visited a sexual health clinic previously.

Minister Naughton, said, “I am delighted with the additional access that home STI testing provides, providing a discreet and confidential service for users, leading to quick diagnosis and intervention for those that have a reactive test result. It’s providing increased opportunities for diagnosis and treatment which is particularly important in the context of rising STI rates, both nationally and internationally.

“Funding for the STI home testing service totalled €3,550,000 in 2023 and I’m delighted that this has been increased to €4.27 million in 2024 which will help us to meet demand.”

The Department said that up to 23 September 23, one fifth  of gonorrhoea notifications and 36% of chlamydia notifications to Public Health came from the home testing service.

 Of the 91,000 home STI kits ordered in 2022, approximately 57,000 (62%) were returned to the laboratory for processing. To the end of November 2023, almost 70,000 kits had been returned, an overall return rate of 69%. 

Just under 6,000 users had a reactive result in 2022, with the majority of these (over 4,000) representing chlamydia diagnoses and just under 1,000 representing gonorrhoea diagnoses. In addition, 860 people had a reactive result for hepatitis B or C, syphilis or HIV.  

To the end of November 2023, just over 7,100 users had a reactive result, with approximately 4,800 representing chlamydia diagnoses, 1,400 representing gonorrhoea diagnoses and 840 users having a reactive result for hepatitis B or C, syphilis or HIV. 

The age of service users ranges from 17 to 65 plus, with the majority of users in the 20-34 age categories. 

Sixty per cent of STI service users identified as female (including trans female), 38% identified as male (including trans male), with the remaining 2% identifying as non-binary, other, or preferring not to say. Seventy-eight per cent of users described their sexual orientation as heterosexual and 22% as gay, lesbian or bisexual. About a third of users were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds other than Irish.