Awareness of infection control measures among the general population has probably never been as high as it is today. However, despite the annual increase in the number of infections, regular screening for STIs has not yet been established in Germany. Yet it is precisely the contact-restricted months that could make a decisive contribution to curbing the spread of HIV and STI before social and in turn, sexual behavior picks up again next summer when restrictions are projected to ease - if as many asymptomatic patients as possible were tested.
While all efforts currently focus on containing the Covid-19 pandemic, delayed effects such as those caused by neglected preventive care or potentially rising numbers of HIV and STI infections must not be ignored. These long-term effects can be countered at an early stage, with innovative healthcare services making a key contribution. The need for self-directed health care did not first grow with the pandemic but has intensified by the lockdown.
In addition to fitness programs, cooking studios, clubs, or birthday parties, innovative solutions in the health care system allow patients to maintain some of their own health care within their own homes without putting a strain on the system.
As with the Covid-19 pandemic, an effective testing strategy for HIV and STI is essential for early diagnosis, prevention of disease complications as well as long-term defects, and breaking chains of infection.
Protective and hygienic measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic are showing signs of a temporary decline in other respiratory as well as gastrointestinal illnesses, and at least in theory, the recommended social distancing rules and contact restrictions should cause infection rates of the most common STIs, such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis, to decline as well.
However, the risk of passing on undetected infections increases during the lockdown, as asymptomatic patients will avoid doctor's appointments or visits to public health clinics out of given pandemic measures, potentially skipping tests for STIs. Dr. John McSorley of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) even called for using the lockdown in the UK as a historic opportunity to curb the spread of STIs back in spring, as this was a phase where infections could be easily detected and treated prior to the potential transmission after restrictions were relaxed.
Even if certain preventive measures cannot be reproduced digitally, especially in the field of HIV and STI prevention, regular home testing with laboratory analysis can reliably take place outside practices and clinics.
Innovative solutions are needed right now that reduce the need for personal contact between healthcare professionals and patients while achieving the same effect - video consultations or symptom check apps are already making an important contribution here. At the same time, new types of services based on medical expertise offer the opportunity for an improved, trusting relationship between patients and doctors thanks to greater self-determination and autonomy in individual health management.
Unfortunately, asymptomatic screenings are not currently covered by health insurances, but s.a.m health's innovative testing service offers patients a maximum degree of self-determination and discretion for this out-of-pocket expense while maintaining the highest medical quality standards. In the event of reactive or positive results, patients are informed about treatment options and referred to their attending physicians.
Not only in light of the asymptomatic courses of many STIs but also the current challenges in medical care and Covid-19 infection control, s.a.m health represents a relief for medical practices and public health services, who can, in turn, focus their resources on the treatment of diagnosed infections and the monitoring of more complex health problems.
The diagnosis rates from the pilot phase show that new or irregular testers were convinced by the service. In addition, the service is an important addition to public health care, especially for rural regions.
It will take our joint efforts to address the long-term effects of the pandemic now. s.a.m health offers a building block in the field of HIV and STI prevention that enables both healthcare professionals and patients to play their part. And now would be the perfect time to prevent an increase in HIV and STI infections after the end of the lockdown.
In just a few steps, users can get tested for HIV & STI on a regular basis:
one-time online registration
one-time (telephone) consultation with a medically trained counselor
During the consultation, personal risk and test cycles (every three, six, or twelve months) are assessed, and the counselors are also available to provide information about STIs and HIV
Delivery of the test kit by mail
Samples are taken at home and sent to the laboratory
Communication of results via SMS or telephone
Automatic reminder by SMS of the next test and shipment of the test kit after confirmation and payment
The s.a.m health service is based on confidentiality, discretion and self-determination. In case of reactive or positive test results, treatment options are explained with referral to treating physicians to follow up.
s.a.m health is a joint project of Deutsche Aidshilfe, Munich Aidshilfe, Labor Lademannbogen and ViiV Healthcare.
The service was designed as part of an innovation project by ViiV Healthcare and Deutsche Aidshilfe and developed in collaboration with users and previously un-serviced target groups of HIV and STI testing offers.
"The long-term goal is to increase diagnosis rates and decrease late diagnoses in Germany through a simple STI screening service that expands access to testing and lowers barriers to regular screening." (s.a.m health Joint Working Agreement )
The result is a service that enables adults (+18 years) to manage their sexual health in a discreet, simple, and self-directed way by completing regular testing followed by laboratory analysis at home. Currently, the s.a.m health test kit includes tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV.
Do you have further questions about s.a.m health or would you like to order information materials for your practice? Then please feel free to contact us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.