A collaboration among Apothekersgroep Groningen, Groningen student associations and a start-up, testalize.me, will provide anonymous sexually transmitted infection testing for residents of the city. The main focus of the project is the student population.
Apothekersgroep Groningen (Pharmacists Group Groningen) includes the Apotheek Hanzeplein and four other pharmacies in the south of the city. The initiative hopes that the anonymous nature of the tests will encourage more people to get tested.
Discussing STIs remains relatively taboo, but the project participants want to make sure that does not stand in the way of people’s health. Offering anonymity and self-sampling in testing may increase the number of people getting tested, especially students and younger people.
Tests can be obtained inside one of the five participating pharmacies or, if the user would prefer full anonymity, a 24/7 vending machine located outside the building. Users collect and send a sample of their bodily substances to a lab, and 48 hours later, users can view their test results online by entering a code rather than relying on any personally identifying information. If the test comes back positive, the user is informed about how to get treated. On average, about 18 percent of tests come back positive, and chlamydia is the most common STI.
Student associations in Groningen have been given discount codes, meaning that their members can get tested for less. With the discount, an STI test for chlamydia or gonorrhoea will only cost 30 euros, which is considerably cheaper than a test from a general physician where patients have to pay out of pocket.
The anonymous testing is made available by testalize.me, a company that provides self-tests for the most common STIs. The company initially focused on offering their services online, but it became clear that users wanted physical pick-up locations. Currently, several GGD (Municipal Health Service) locations are adopting the tests and 100 pharmacies across the Netherlands have begun offering the service.
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