Special delivery: Mail-in STD tests, other programs aim to encourage youth self-testing

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Up to half of sexually active young people will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by age 25. Yet many avoid the embarrassment of getting an STD test or recoil from the prospect of discussing these subjects with their parents.

For this population, Johns Hopkins University has developed a program that provides a free mail-in STD testing kit which offers anonymity and convenience. Called “I Want the Kit,” the web-based program offers STD information and free gonorrhea and chlamydia tests that come in the mail to young men and women in their teens and early twenties. The test results arrive within two weeks via a phone call that requires the user to enter in an assigned identification number and password that comes with the kit to ensure privacy and anonymity. Those who test positive can then make an appointment at a local clinic of their choice through the website.

“I Want the Kit” and other programs — such as the “Get Yourself Talking, Get Yourself Tested” (GYT) campaign — are tapping into popular social networks such as Facebook and MTV to better inform youth of STD facts and encourage them to get tested. In addition, the “Expedited Partner Therapy” program provides those who test positive for gonorrhea or chlamydia to obtain antibiotics for up to three partners.

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross applauds these public health efforts. “These programs make it easier for sexually active young people who would otherwise refuse medical care out of embarrassment or poverty to test themselves for STDs. These programs could also help reduce the transmission of these diseases between partners who are unaware of their disease status.”