COLCHESTER, VT — To continue meeting patient needs for essential sexual and reproductive health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) will begin offering at-home sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis next week.
This new service comes as public health experts warn that STI rates appear to be on the rise during COVID-19 pandemic as health centers are seeing a decline in in-person visits and STI contact tracers are being diverted to COVID-19 contact tracing.
By remaining open and available to see patients for primary care and sexual and reproductive health care needs, PPNNE reduced the burden for COVID-19 providers. As other primary care providers closed or offered limited availability, PPNNE was able to respond and provide time-sensitive primary care either in person or via telehealth.
Statement from Dr. Donna Burkett, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England:
“Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is proud to offer at-home STI testing as another innovative tool to continue caring for our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our at-home STI testing service will help to minimize disruptions in patient care, mitigate the spread of STIs, protect the health of our patients and communities, and reduce the burden on frontline providers. As we continue to navigate this pandemic, at-home STI testing is another way that PPNNE is adapting and continuing to serve our communities and safely provide quality, compassionate care to our patients.”
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, PPNNE began offering telehealth services to patients at all of its health centers, in addition to offering in-person services when necessary, as another strategy to help minimize disruptions to care. Through telehealth, patients can access services with fewer or shorter visits or without needing to visit a health center at all, allowing providers to answer patient questions, manage prescriptions, and help patients address their sexual and reproductive health care needs remotely.
Telehealth services are an important tool to help reduce barriers to care, especially for people of color, LGBTQ people, people who live in rural areas, people with low incomes, and those who are uninsured, who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At-home STI testing works in three easy steps: PPNNE will mail patients a test kit, patients will provide their own samples, and patients mail it back to PPNNE. The testing process will take up to two weeks, but often less; once PPNNE has the sample, it takes up to 48 hours to get the results. The at-home STI tests use the same lab technology as in-person testing and the results have the same high level of accuracy. Those seeking an at-home STI test can schedule a telehealth appointment by calling 1-866-476-1321.