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B.C. online STI testing service seeing 3,000 people a month

Get Checked Online allows people to order their own lab requisitions, instead of waiting on a doctor

B.C. is one of the only places in Canada that gives residents the option to order their own STI tests, instead of having to go through a doctor for a lab requisition.

The service, called Get Checked Online, launched in 2014 and has helped thousands of people a year ever since then. Dr. Mark Gilbert, a sexual health expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said they’re seeing about 3,000 people a month using it right now.

Boosting testing, he said, is key to slowing the spread of sexually-transmitted infections. This has become increasingly important in recent years as the rates of STIs have risen in B.C. and the world.

In the 10-year span between 2009 and 2019, the number of British Columbians with chlamydia jumped from 253 to 333 per 100,000 people, according to the BCCDC. In the same period, the rate of gonorrhea went from 31 to 70 per 100,000 people, and the rate of syphilis leapt from five to 21 per 100,000 people.

Get Checked Online is one way Gilbert said B.C. experts are trying to address the many barriers people can face when trying to getting tested. The service removes the need for someone to make a doctor’s appointment or wait in a walk-in clinic just to get a lab requisition form. Instead, people can submit their symptoms online and receive a requisition, which they can then take directly to a lab. If their results are negative, they’ll receive a notification online, and if they’re positive, a nurse will connect with them to go over treatment options.

Gilbert said this can make a big difference for people who may have otherwise had to take time off work or paid for childcare. It can also feel like a safer option for people who are more likely to face stigma or discrimination in health-care settings, such as people of colour and LGBTQ2S individuals.

READ ALSO: Anti-Indigenous racism embedded in B.C. healthcare system: report

Gilbert said the service still has its limitations, though. It’s only available in eight communities so far, including Vancouver, Victoria, Duncan, Langford, Kamloops, Nelson, Kimberly and Maple Ridge, and it still requires people to go in person to a lab to get their testing done.

Ideally, Gilbert said, the service would expand to rural, remote and Indigenous communities as well, where testing options are already scarce. People in smaller communities also face the barrier of likely knowing the doctor and lab technicians they have to interact with to get testing done, Gilbert pointed out.

He said another thing they’re looking into providing is at-home testing kits, so people can send in blood and urine samples to a lab themselves.

Gilbert said if people are sexually active, he generally recommends they get tested once a year.

READ ALSO: 4-year sentence for Chilliwack man who failed to disclose HIV status to sexual partner

About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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