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Factors affecting the implementation & scalability of online sexual health services

Research theme(s)
Internet Based Testing


Canadian Institutes for Health Research

Principal investigator(s)
Jean Shoveller, Mark Gilbert

Research team
Melanie Achen, Vicki Bungay, Penny Hawe, Rich Lester, Juanita Maginley, Gina Ogilvie

The Internet is a new medium that offers unprecedented reach to populations at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Globally, pilot programs for internet-based sexual health services such as online testing and partner notification have shown promising results. Internet-based services typically include online testing services (e.g., online risk assessment questionnaires; downloadable lab test requisition forms); online counseling and education (e.g., online sexual health counselors through chat, forums, or e-mail; referrals to other services) and online partner notification (e.g., online greeting cards sent peer-to-peer with personal messages or anonymously). Youth (age<25) and men who have sex with men (MSM) have been shown to be particularly receptive to internet-based services. The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has recently been funded to develop a BC Online Sexual Health Services Program (OSHSP), which will build on this experience by adding the following online initiatives: (a) online STI/HIV testing; (b) online counseling and education; and (c) email-based partner notification. This two-year study will include in-depth analyses of the first two sites in BC where the OSHSP will be implemented: BCCDC 12th Street STI Clinic and Bute Street Clinic. The study aims to: (1) Develop detailed descriptions of the factors affecting the implementation of BC’s new OSHSP; (2) Investigate the processes by which those factors may influence the potential for complementarity between the new OSHSP and the current system; (3) Investigate how the OSHSP can best be scaled-up to fit with and complement existing services within the BC’s sexual health service system.