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Direct Access Testing For STDs: How to Communicate with Young Adults

Posted Feb 10 2010 12:00am

It can be a challenge to reach young adults with public health messages, particularly adult males (see: ; More on Reaching Young Males with Public Health Education Messages). Hold that thought while I briefly discuss web-based direct access testing (DAT). These are web sites that enable the ordering of lab tests at a reasonable price, paid for with a credit card, and without the intermediation of a physician. Some state laws prohibit this practice. A niche market of direct access testing are those web sites that offer only lab tests to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).I blogged about this topic in November three years ago (see: Direct Access Testing for STDs). 

Michelle Sobel of Analyte Media is an expert at crafting health messages; she is currently focusing on the area of STD testing and has developed two DAT/STD sites. The first is STDExpress which is designed for the "worried well" who need lab testing advice right away. There is a "test recommender" available on the home page to help potential clients decide on the most relevant tests for them. Also featured on the home page is a list of the following five reasons why "private testing" (i.e., web-mediated) is desirable:

  • Your personal health data is in your control.
  • Access to premium lab tests for 50% less than the cost of a doctor visit.
  • No long waits in a public health clinic.
  • Free Doctor Consult and treatment options if you test positive.
  • Fast results. Up to 3 times faster than results from a doctor or clinic.

As an example of the light and humorous touch that she brings to her web sites and that is necessary to reach young adults, here is the logo for a sexual health blog featured on the STDExpress home page:


The second DAT/STD web site she has developed is called You Never Really Know. This site has a more chatty feel than the other and features slogans like " Sure, he’s hot...but has he been tested?", the option to "test-2-gether" for couples, and a sexual advice column from "Dr. Elisabeth." Under Michelle's guidance, this latter STD testing site is considering alignment with on-line dating services -- a logical move. In my opinion, both of these sites strike the right tone for communicating with young adults about STD testing and should be emulated by others interested in this topic.

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