The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is piloting an at-home chlamydia and gonorrhea testing program to determine the value of more accessible at-home STD testing for residents, if added to the department’s service offerings.
Starting November 9, at-home tests became available to county residents 18 to 24 years of age interested in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Residents can go online to request a test be mailed to their home. Residents can then provide a sample, mail it back to the lab and review their results online in the privacy of their own homes.
“Many barriers still exist for people seeking testing for sexually-transmitted infections,” explained ACHD Clinical Services Deputy Director Dr. Barbara Nightingale. “This at-home pilot testing program will help us increase accessibility to testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as leave open the possibility for expansion the future to include other STDs.”
If a resident tests positive for either chlamydia or gonorrhea, a member of the Health Department will contact them and provide treatment options and resources.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are common sexually transmitted infections. In Allegheny County in 2021, 2,398 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed, a six percent increase from the previous year. In 2021, the Health Department also confirmed 5,715 cases of chlamydia, a one percent increase from the previous year.
“In Allegheny County, chlamydia rates are highest among females 15 to 24 years of age. Incidence of gonorrhea is highest among males 20 to 29 years and females 15 to 24 years,” said ACHD medical epidemiologist Dr. Kristen Mertz. “Testing is key to stopping the spread and thus reducing the rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea. All men who have sex with men should be screened at least annually.”
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable with medication prescribed by a health care provider.
Diagnosing the infection early can help limit the immediate discomfort of symptoms and reduce the spread of the infection to others.
Residents interested in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea at home for free can do so here.
The Health Department will assess the program’s impact after 500 STD tests are requested, and utilized, and results are provided to the patient.
“Chlamydia and gonorrhea are not the only sexually transmitted infections that are increasing or of concern to Allegheny County residents,” remarked Nightingale. “We are seeing increasing rates of syphilis and HIV, as well. After we analyze the data, I hope that this becomes a viable option for people interested in being tested at-home for other diseases, including HIV or syphilis.”
Throughout the pilot, the coordinating team is focused on ensuring an optimal patient experience for those requesting tests.
Color Health, ACHD’s partner in this pilot program, will mail the tests, perform lab testing on specimens, and provide results to residents. Part of the project will be focused digital marketing and public outreach campaign to reach communities with the highest rates of infections.
“At the Allegheny County Health Department, we are always looking for ways to meet our residents where they are when it comes to our service offerings,” stated ACHD Director Dr. Debra Bogen.
“I am excited that we are piloting this program and hope that it offers residents who may be hesitant or who have barriers to testing for sexually transmitted infections a better, more inclusive option.”