Background: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, sexual health services have started to implement alternative service delivery methods that reduce in-person contact (e.g., telemedicine, virtual health). We sought to understand acceptability of alternative service delivery methods among sexual health service clients in BC, Canada.
Methods: We used data from an online anonymous survey administered from 21/07/2020–04/08/2020 to clients (aged>=16 years) who had used the BC Centre for Disease Control’s sexually-transmitted infection (STI) clinic and/or the GetCheckedOnline testing service in the year prior to COVID-19 public health responses (03/2020). We described participants’ likelihood of using potential alternative sexual health service delivery methods, and conducted bivariate analysis to examine its association with experiencing any sexual health service access barriers during the pandemic.
Results: Of the 1198 survey participants (aged 17–76 years), 48% identified as men, 47% as women, and 5% as another gender; 71% identified as White, 24% as racialized minorities, and 4% as Indigenous. Overall, support for using alternative STI testing models was high, with 88% likely to use at-home self-collection kits and 79% likely to use an express testing model (i.e., phone/video triage prior to specimen collection at
a clinic). More participants were likely to discuss sexual health with a healthcare provider over the phone (64%), compared with video visits (53%) and text (49%). Text messaging to receive STI test results and reminders were of high interest (71% and 63% likely to use, respectively). Likelihood of using alternative service delivery methods did not differ by participants’ experience of access barriers, where 66% of total participants reported having avoided/delayed seeking services during 03/2020–07/2020.
Conclusion: Likelihood of using potential alternative sexual health service delivery methods was high overall, including among participants who did not avoid/delay seeking services. Sustaining and expanding such services would facilitate access during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.