Running innovative programmes
Improving access to sexual healthcare with SH:24
SH:24 is an innovative new service that provides free at home testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Following its launch in 2015, the project has just celebrated its first birthday after a very successful year.
The online service can be accessed any time of the day and is completely confidential. It’s a convenient alternative to visiting a sexual health clinic, which some find uncomfortable or difficult to schedule around work, just as Susanna did.
Susanna is a 25-year-old Italian student who lives in Southwark. Having decided that she’d like to get herself tested, she visited a clinic where she unfortunately had a bad experience at the reception. Disappointed, she left before even taking a seat.
Remembering an advert she’d seen at her local pharmacy, she looked up SH:24 online.
‘I quickly filled in the form and after three days the test was at my door,’ says Susanna. ‘I was about to leave for a short holiday when I received it and I didn't take it with me. Surprisingly, after a few days I received a text from SH:24 reminding me to do the test; this was one of the parts of the experience that stood out to me most.
‘Doing the test was unbelievably easy. It took me 20 minutes and the instructions were perfectly clear. I had my results three days later.
‘SH:24 is fast, pain free and incredibly easy to do. It's the best timesaving solution and it also guarantees your privacy,’ says Susanna.
Delivering results and advice
Since SH:24’s launch in 2015, there have been over 12,000 orders for testing kits with the high return rate of 76 per cent.
SH:24 is fully integrated with existing NHS sexual health services and aims to increase the number of people tested for STIs and free up capacity in clinics to work with more complex cases.
A third of people attending sexual health clinics could potentially self-manage their condition. SH:24 will mean earlier diagnosis for many people with STIs, which means earlier treatment and less risk of passing on the infection.
People can be tested for the four most common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. Test results are sent by text message. If the user tests positive for an infection, SH:24 will advise them to visit their local clinic for treatment. In some cases, an NHS clinician may call them to offer additional advice.
‘We need services like SH:24 because we’re the primary ones in charge of our individual health; we can’t just be passive and uninformed consumers,’ says Susanna. ‘Solutions like this will take the strain off health services and put us in control of easy tasks, without taking up a busy doctor’s time.’
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