The study SHOUT proposes the use of webcam and telephone consultations to enable young people to consult doctors without coming to a clinic.
Professor Christopher Fairley of the Sexual Health Unit, School of Population Health at the University of Melbourne and Director, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, part of The Alfred, says rates of chlamydia are on the rise, especially among young people.
“There were more than 62,000 notified cases of chlamydia in Australia in 2009. Under 25 year olds accounted for 63 percent of the cases,” Professor Fairely says.
“STIs can cause infertility and other long-term health problems in men and women if they are not treated.”
“Young people can find it difficult to access sexual health services due to lack of money, confidence and knowledge of the avenues of how to get help.”
“We need to find innovative ways to improve access to sexual health care, particularly for young people,” he says.
SHOUT, led by University of Melbourne PhD candidate Ms Cameryn Garrett, seeks young Australians to share their views anonymously on the proposal.
“This study is exploring the feasibility and desirability of offering sexual health consultations online through a webcam or by telephone,” Ms Garret says.
Around 800 people aged16 to 24, regardless of sexual experience are needed to complete an anonymous online questionnaire which asks about opinions on access to sexual healthcare services and opinions on different types of sexual health consultations.
More than 400 people have completed the online questionnaire so far, largely female. The researchers are especially interested in hearing the views of young men from across Australia, particularly those from rural and regional areas.
Dr Maggie Kirkman of the Centre for Women’s Health, Gender and Society at the University of Melbourne says, “The more people who complete the survey, the more confident we can be about whether young people in Australia would be interested in using telephone and webcam services.”
“It is vital that we find new ways to overcome some of the barriers young people face when they need sexual health services.”